Reading from Speed's map, 1610
Reading from Rocque's map of Berkshire, 1761
William Stanford & Co. map of
Named after 'the people of the Red One', Reading is now at the heart of 'silicon valley', or England's computer industry. Formerly it was noted for the railway junction, the prison (still open), Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory (now closed), and its abbey (now a ruin).
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells how in 871 the Wessex Army came to Reading to defend their territory against the Vikings. They were dug in on the western side of the town, and fierce fighting took place near Englefield. The Danes were forced back towards Reading. A few day later the Vikings were reinforced when King Aethelred and his brother Alfred arrived with more troops. More bloody fighting took place, and the Saxons were driven back.
Castle Street may have led to a castle, but no evidence has been found for its existence. However, there is no doubt about the abbey.
Reading Abbey gateway, 1779 (P Sanby - F Chesham)
Reading abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 to house monks from Cluny in Burgundy. It quickly grew in importance. The King was buried there in 1135. Henry II attended jousting in the town and in 1164 saw the building consecrated by Thomas-a-Becket. In 1359 John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, brought his bride, Blanche Plantagenet, to be married in the abbey.
When dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, the abbey was granted to Lord Somerset. The ruins are now owned by Reading Corporation and are open, without charge, during normal hours.
Reading from the south, 1764
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