When was the hey day of Colnbrook?
Was it the late 16th century when Colnbrook had no fewer than 10 coaching inns and was the equivalent in size and stature to modern day Reading?
Or was it the 18th century when one of the first Turnpike Trusts was established at Colnbrook, still the main artery between London and the south west, and Colnbrook was a municipal borough with powers to send its own Member of Parliament to Westminster?
Today, with nearly 6,000 inhabitants, it’s sometimes hard to understand where those shops and pubs have gone. But Colnbrook has had a tumultuous history over the past thousand years, and that rollercoaster pattern seems far from subsiding in recent times.
The plundering of Colnbrook by Prince Rupert in 1642, or the decimation of the village by plague in 1664 were, without doubt, the village’s darkest hours.
Just as the late 19th century brought the coming of the railway to Colnbrook and the early 20th brought the Colnbrook Bypass (1929), by the mid twentieth century Colnbrook had witnessed the impact of the Beeching review, and begun to experience the onslaught on the village created from the expansion of London Airport.
Today, in the 21st century, we are on the verge of losing our last countryside and becoming part of a continuous urban sprawl from London through to Slough. Since 1994 the ward of Colnbrook with Poyle comprises parts of Berkshire, Bucks and Middlesex and our identity is, arguably, somewhere between the three.
However, if Colnbrook’s chequered history teaches nothing else it is that nothing stays the same. For every bad thing that has happened, there has been something good: the Cox’s Orange Pippin and the McClaren M8A were both Colnbrook inventions. Despite the threat from Heathrow, Colnbrook today is a thriving logistics centre, ironically reaping the benefits of the airport.
In the 21st century, of course, there are new challenges: Grundon’s super-incinerators’ burning of radioactive waste continue to generate debate about the health consequences four years after they began operating. The Swanston family’s sale of land to Goodman to support the proposed SIFE development unleashes an uncertain time on the village, with the ensuing battle expected to take several years.