Maidenhead in 1835
Maidenhead is a small but neat town, a little way from the Thames on the Bath road, twenty-six miles from London. The town was formerly called South Ealington, and the name Maidenhead was said to have been given to it from the veneration paid to the head of one of the eleven thousand British virgins who, according to an ancient but fabulous legend, were martyred by Attila king of the Huns ; but as in the most ancient records it is written Maidenhithe or Maydenehythe, it is more likelv that the name was first given to the spot where Maidenhead bridge now crosses the Thames, where was formerly a great wharfage of timber and firewood. (Hithe is a word of Saxon origin from Haeh, a ditch or trench, and it is said to signify a small port or quay ; thus we have Lamb-hithe or Lambeth, Queenhithe, Hythe on the Kent coast, &c.) There has been a bridge at this spot from an early date, certainly from the thirteenth century, and the erection of it diverted the course of the great western road, which appears before that time to have crossed the river about two miles higher at Babham Ferry, near Cookham. From this change of the road the town of Maidenhead took its rise, and it soon outstripped Bray, which may be considered its mother-town, and in which parish it partly stands.
Maidenhead consists of one long paved street. It has a chapel, erected of late years on the site of a former one taken down as being too small. The bridge consists of seven semicircular arches of stone, and three smaller arches of brick at each end. There is an almshouse between the bridge and the town for eight poor men and their wives. The chief trade of the place is in meal, malt, and timber ; and it is a great thoroughfare, in consequence of which are several inns. The market is on Wednesday, and is a considerable mart for corn. There are three fairs. Maidenhead has a corporation, consisting of a mayor, high steward, steward or recorder, and eleven burgesses, two of whom are annually chosen bridge-masters. The mayor, high steward, steward, and the mayor of the preceding year are justices of the peace ; and the mayor presides in a court for the recovery of small debts, which is held every three weeks. The corporation have the power of making bye-laws, and there is a jail for debtors and felons. The corporation revenues consist chiefly of the tolls of the markets and the bridge. The town is in the parishes of Cookham and Bray ; the chapel is in the former. The minister is appointed by the mayor and bridge-masters, and is said to be exempt from episcopal jurisdiction. The population, owing to the town not forming a distinct parish, cannot be given. It is probably about 1,500. There are a National school and a Sunday school, and three dissenting places of worship.