The history of Slough Town Hall dates back to 1933 when the Council purchased a large plot of land opposite what is now Salt Hill Park to be the site of its future offices. At the time, Slough was growing considerably and on the verge of acquiring Borough status, and the Council were looking for a new Town Hall to reflect this.
A competition was launched to find a design to match the town's ambition and a noted architect, H. S. Goodhart-Rendel, was appointed as Assessor. 205 entries were received, and entry No. 142, submitted by C. H. James and S. Rowland Pierce, was selected as the winner of the £250 premium. In a letter to the Council, Goodhart-Rendel wrote:
"I have minutely weighed the merits and defects of the considerable number of excellent designs that remained after those with grave faults had been eliminated. It is therefore with complete confidence that I put forward my selection of No. 142 (the design placed first), having repeatedly compared it with those most nearly approaching it in all-round merit. Its general arrangement is convenient and economical, the detail of its planning is very well studied, its fenestration is particularly admirable, and its architectural treatment appropriate and dignified."
In a further letter he adds:
"I am looking forward eagerly to seeing the building when it will be in course of erection. I feel convinced that, when complete, it will be generally admired."
The architects had previously won the competition to design Norwich City Hall, considered by Pevsner to be the "foremost public building of between the wars", and would later go on to design Hertford County Hall. Both buildings have been declared Grade II* listed and, although different in design to Slough, share a similar approach to design, planning and detailing.
Construction at Slough began in 1935, carried out by a local contractor, H. Tyson Chambers, and was completed during 1936. C. H. James regularly visited the site during construction; his daughter, Elizabeth Argent, recalled:
"My father was always very much involved in the construction of his buildings and would visit the sites on Saturday mornings to watch the progress and talk with the builder and clerk of works. I was often able to go with him. No detail was too small to warrant his attention. I clearly remember, at the age of six, visiting the site at Slough when building was just commencing."
The building was officially opened on 31 March 1937 by Mrs. A. G. Trevener, wife of the Chairman of the Council.
Download the souvenir booklet from the official opening (2.5Mb)
Many of the original details designed by James and Pierce survive to this day. Even the briefest of visits to the building is sufficient to appreciate the marble floor and columns in the main entrance hall, the oak panelling in the council chamber and the committee rooms and the Art Deco-influenced staircase in the western wing. The cupola on the roof was designed by Reg Butler, who would later go on to become a famous sculptor. To lose all these for good would be a tremendous shame.
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