Home for wayward footwear
I couldn't resist squeezing this one in - if you need any washing done whilst in Reading, and you might if you've come by narrow boat, bring it to this launderette in Oxford Road. At least they're honest about the laws of nature regarding laundry!
Reading Abbey was constructed between 1121 and 1164. It was one of the great pilgrimage centres of Medieval England.
Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 as a private mausoleum for his family. It was built on the site of the Danish stronghold set up during the Viking Wars of King Alfred's reign (871). They used it as their countrywide invasion headquarters, and the King besieged them there several times. At the time of the Civil War between Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda and her cousin, King Stephen, the Abbey was still being built. The latter apparently constructed a motte and bailey castle in its grounds, possibly to harrass Wallingford, though this was a little distant. It was destroyed by the Empress' son (later Henry II) in 1153. The remains of the motte can still be seen in the Forbury Gardens (which take their name from the Castle: the Fore-Borough). The Abbey was finally completed in 1164, forty-three years later. It was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, (Saint-to-be) Thomas A'Beckett.
It was while staying at the Abbey, the previous year, that Henry II had witnessed the trial by combat of Henry De Essex and Robert De Montfort on De Monfort Island in the Thames. Essex had been accused by Montfort of treachery and cowardice, and the two fought a long hard battle until Montfort was victorious and Essex found guilty. The latter was thought to be dead and was taken to the Abbey where he recovered, revealing his defeat had been due to his being blinded by a vision of St. Edmund. He remained a Reading monk for the rest of his life. It was also at Reading Abbey, in 1185, that the Patriach of Jerusalem offered Henry II the crown of his city, if he would defend it against the infidels. The King declined. On three occasions, the Papal Legate summoned ecclesiastical councils at the Abbey, and parliament also met there, notably in 1453. The House of Commons met in the Chapter House and the Lords in the Refrectory, often when they were pushed out of London by the threat of plague. There were Royal occasions at the Abbey too.
The Abbey's Inner Gateway is one of the few remnants of this once great house still standing today. It was the original home of the Abbey School and was attended by Jane Austin. There are some ruins of the Abbey's chapter house and associated features in the Forbury Gardens, where the largest lion in the World stands as a memorial to the Royal Berkshire Regiment killed at the Battle of Maiwand in the Afgan Wars. The other substantially intact Abbey building that remains today is the dormitory of the pilgrims' hospitium or guesthouse of St. John the Baptist. This stands beside the path through St. Laurence's churchyard. It later became the abode of the Royal Grammar School of Henry VII (now Reading School), Stables for Henry VIII's horses when the Abbot's House became his palace for a short time, the Barracks of Civil War Soldiers and, in 1892, the home of University College Reading (now the University of Reading: hence St. James' scallops on its arms).
Reading: England's largest town.
"The town of Reading."
Of course, Reading is nowhere near the biggest place in England, but it is the biggest TOWN: bigger places are all CITIES.
Reading is not a tourist destination in its own right, but could be used as a tourist base to visit nearby places, as it is located in central southern England.
Central London is 40 miles away (25 minutes by 125 MPH Inter City First Great Western trains). Heathrow Airport is just 25 miles. The port of Southampton is 50 miles away. The nearest seaside is Hayling Island (Hampshire) 60 miles away. Wales (Newport) is 90 miles away.
Most overseas visitors to Reading are likely to be business travellers visiting UK headquarters of various multinationals like Hewlett Packard, Foster Wheeler, Oracle, ING, British Gas E&P, etc. on the varoius business parks located mainly to the south & east of the town.
Other visitors to Reading are likely to be students going to the London Road & Whiteknights campuses of Reading University, to the southeast of the town centre and football supporters going to see their team play Reading's 'Royals' soccer team who were promoted to English top-flight Premiership soccer for the first time in their 135-year history in 2006.
Reading is the nearest big 'provincial' town to the BBC in west London, so Reading sometimes features in 'Fly on the wall' documentaries (which are intended to be a snapshot of the way things are in Britain), such as "The family" in 1974 & "Police" in the early 1980s & they sometimes send reporters out to Reading to get a non-London view on things.
Famous Reading people include Ricky Gervais, Chris Tarrant, Rudolf Walker ("Love thy neighbour" & "EastEnders") & antiques expert, Arthur Negus.
Reading is on the border of 3 ITV regions. Officially it's Meridian, but some parts of Reading can't get Meridian very well & watch London ITV or Central instead.
Reading is lucky enough to receive the best London radio stations such as Magic, Heart, Capital, Kiss & Virgin's FM service & you can also get these stations on DAB in Reading.
Of the Reading-based local stations, I don't know why anyone listens to 2-Ten-FM & Reading 107 when they can clearly receive London stations.
Radio Berkshire is the local BBC station on 104.1 & 104.4FM. Classic Gold has a Reading-based service on 1431 AM (210m MW). Those venturing beyond Ascot can stick with Tony Blackburn by retuning to 828kHz (Bedfordshire Classic Gold).
Until the completion of The Oracle shopping centre in 2000, Reading didn't really made a big thing of its riversides.
Reading has three rivers:
1) The Thames.
Flows across the north of Reading. There are some boatyards & marinas, you can hire boats or do river cruises.
The Warren is probably one of the most exclusive, expensive parts of Reading, big houses on the hill on the north bank look down on the Thames. South bank of the Thames is mostly industrial & the home of the controversial rock festival. Upmarket flats (sorry, apartments) have replaced some of the industry on the south bank of the Thames.
The Thames starts in Gloucestershire, goes down through Oxford, Reading, Henley, Maidenhead, Windsor & Staines, then through Greater London, after which is becomes the Thames estuary (between the counties of Essex & Kent) before going into the North Sea.
2) The Kennet.
Joins the Thames east of Reading town centre (at Kennet Mouth), flows through the east & south of the town centre (past offices, by houses & past The Oracle centre), becoming Reading's southwestern boundary & then going to Newbury, Hungerford & up to its source in Wiltshire's Marlborough Downs.
3) The Loddon.
Flows near & through the southeastern outskirts of Reading from its source in Hampshire. Sindlesham Mill Hotel, just outside Reading is on the Loddon. The George in Woodley is a Loddon-side pub.
"Reading factoids: population, physical, political."
Labour-run Reading Borough Council covers most of Reading, except for the suburbs of Earley & Woodley, which are part of Conservative-controlled Wokingham.
Reading Borough's POPULATION is about 144,000 plus the populations of suburbs outsde the borough boundary (Earley, Woodley and Calcot) equals 232,662 people in the built-up area of Reading as you see it on the map.
Up until 1911, everything north of the Thames in the Reading area was Oxfordshire. In 1911, Caversham (the Reading suburb north of the Thames) was moved to Berkshire, like the rest of Reading. A further land -grab happened in the 1970s, when the then new suburb of Caversham Park Village moved from Oxfordshire to Berkshire county.
Reading has 4 MPs. Reading West is Labour (Martin Salter). Reading East is a marginal seat (Conservative since May, 2005). Wokingham (includes southeastern suburbs of Reading) is the man who the press says looks like Spock: John Redwood (Conservative). South Oxfordshire's MP is Boris Johnson (Conservative).
Central Reading (RG1) is essentially Victorian, with a lot of terraced houses. There are five main suburbs in Reading:
Whitley (RG2) is mainly a big post-WW1 council estate, with some grander homes near the University.
Tilehurst (RG3/30) is a diverse former village: mostly 1950s council estates, with the full range of private homes, some posh.
Caversham (RG4) is generally a posh area (e.g. the Heights). Lower Caversham isn't posh (mainly Victorian terraces).
Woodley (RG5) is a former Village with some older cottages, but is mainly private semi's on post-1945 estates.
Earley (RG6) has 3 distinct parts: North Earley is mostly 1930s. South Earley is 1930s on the main roads with 1950s/'60s estates.
Lower Earley is one of the largest private housing developments in western Europe. It's right on the outer edge of Reading, where it goes down to the Loddon. It was started in the second half of the 1970s & was more or less completed during the 1990s & is therefore the biggest example of 1980s housing in Britain. Ironically, some parts of the 'Lower' Earley development are the highest parts of Earley!
Caversham Community Folk Festival
Unlike WOMAD and the Rock Festival, the Caversham Folk Festival is a laid-back affair. You can find a performance in the middle of a field...
For the children it's an Aladdin's Cave...
... and there's plenty for them to do...
... so they should be really happy.
(I just wanted to say that I returned from my travels to find a letter telling me that this picture won third prize in a photographic competition and I'm really chuffed because it was my first entry in a competition and therefore the first prize I ever won for a photograph!)
At least the site manager is relaxed about it...
... the fun goes on well into the evening ...
... so long as you behave yourself...
... and the great thing is, it's all free! Though of course, it is dependent on your voluntary contributions.
... or in the comfort of a tent...
... and even down the local pub ...
... where local characters drop in ...
... perhaps after a hard day at nearby Royal Ascot
Folks are singing...
... folks are dancing ...
... being creative ...
... or just enjoying a drink with friends in the beer tent.