MAIDENHEAD, a market-town, partly in the parish of Bray, and partly in that of Cookham, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the hundred of Bray and Cookham, union of Cookham, county of Berks, 13 miles (N. E. by E.) from Reading, and 26 (W.) from London; containing 3315 inhabitants. The ancient name of this place was South Aylington or Elington, to distinguish it from a manor called North Elington, now North Town. The town consists principally of one street, which extends to the bottom of Folly Hill, and separates the two parishes, the north side being in Cookham, and the south in Bray; the street is lighted with gas and paved, and is on the great thoroughfare from the metropolis to Bath, Bristol, and the west of England. Tradition states that at the house formerly known as the Greyhound inn, the unfortunate Charles I. had his last interview with his family. A bridge of timber was erected over the Thames here previously to the year 1297, and a tree was allowed annually out of Windsor Forest for its repair. This bridge was succeeded in 1772 by the present substantial edifice, consisting of seven semicircular arches of stone, with three smaller arches of brick at each end, the whole built by the corporation from a design of Sir Robert Taylor's, at an expense of about £20,000; by an act of parliament the corporation were authorised to transfer the tolls received from vessels passing under the bridge, to the traffic on the road over it. The adjacent country is in a high state of cultivation, and is richly adorned with woodland scenery, interspersed with elegant villas; the banks of the river are enlivened by the crowning heights of Taplow, and the dark belting wood of Clifden, the respective seats of the Earl of Orkney and Sir George Warrender, Bart., and the latter celebrated by Pope.
The trade is chiefly in malt, corn, meal, and timber, which are conveyed to London. The Great Western railway has a station here, and the line is carried across the Thames by a handsome bridge of 10 brick arches, of which the two principal, each spanning 128 feet, are perhaps the widest, considering the smallness of the elevation, of any brick arches ever built; the others, which serve to lighten the abutments, are from 15 to 25 feet in span. The market, established by Henry VI., is on Wednesday, and the trade in corn is of the best description. There are three fairs, each of which continues for three days, commencing respectively on the Wednesday in Whitsun-week, for horses, horned-cattle, and pigs; September 29th, for horses, cattle, and the hiring of servants; and November 30th, for horses and cattle.
The principal inhabitants of the town, with a priest from the adjacent priory of Hurley as warden, were constituted a guild or fraternity, so early as 1452, by letters-patent of Henry VI., with permission to elect brethren and sisters into it, and to use a common seal; the chief object being to keep the bridge in repair and uphold a chantry, for which purpose a toll was granted on the river, and on all commodities sold in the market. These privileges were suspended at the Reformation; but in 1577 an inspeximus was issued, and it is a curious fact that, in the reign of Elizabeth, new letters-patent were bestowed upon the fraternity, confirming all former liberties, with its ancient Roman Catholic rights. This revival, however, continued only for four years, when the guild was abolished, and a lay corporation substituted; for, in the 24th of Elizabeth, was conferred the first charter of incorporation, which was renewed by James I., and, with still further powers, by Charles II. A charter subsequently granted by James II. was the governing one previously to the passing of the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, by which the corporation now consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; the total number of borough magistrates is seven. Petty-sessions for the division are held here by the county justices, on the second and fourth Monday in every month. The town-hall is a commodious structure, under which the market is held; there is a small gaol.
The chapel here, dedicated to St. Andrew and St. Mary Magdalene, was built in 1826, by subscription, aided by a grant of £500 from the Incorporated Society, nearly on the site of a former edifice; it is a neat structure in a chaste and simple style, from a design of the late Mr. Busby's, and contains 400 free sittings. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, about £200; patron, S. F. Maitland, Esq. The chapel first erected was commenced about 1269, by some of the inhabitants, on the boundary line of the two parishes. A commodious parsonage-house has been erected by the corporation. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, Wesleyans, and Independents. A national school is supported, partly by £30 per annum from an estate given by Abraham Spoore. A school for girls was established and endowed by Lady Pocock; and every two years a bounty of £100, in sums of £10 each, is given to ten female servants of good character who have lived in the same family for a period of seven years. An almshouse for eight men and their wives, founded in 1659 by James Smyth, has an endowment of £48 per annum. Sir Isaac and Lady Pocock bequeathed property for supplying poor persons weekly with bread, and 100 families with bread, meat, and coal, at Christmas; together with £50 in small sums to the aged and infirm, at the commencement of every year.