John Madejski is a self made man and successful entrepreneur who made his money out of publishing. He is also from Reading. More recently he has been ploughing some of this money back into Reading, especially into the Football Club.
I'm not sure exactly how much of the Stadium he paid for, but it was certainly a big percentage. Hence the Stadiums name. It is very modern, being only a few years old. It has been built to be extended (upwards) so if Reading hit the big time and get bigger crowds, they simply plug more seating in on top (you can see a white post sticking out the roof in this photo, which is what this is for).
This photo shows Reading playing the Top of the Table Ipswich Town on January 22nd 2005. The ground is almost full. Reading are playing in the blue and white hoops. Ipswich are in their away strip as they normally play in blue and white. You probably can't see much of the players though as I took this picture for the stadium rather than the players.
This is not really a Must-see site, but I add this in for the comedy value!
About ten years ago, some IRA terrorists were on a train out of London Paddington carrying a bomb. Also on the train was a petty thief who had family living in Reading. This thief spotted the two IRA guys (who apparently looked a bit shifty), and spotted the bag they were carrying. He told the Police later that it looked like a classic bag that a thief would use for a job as it would compress down nicely when not in use. His assumption being that the two IRA guys were thieves who had just done a job.
Anyway to cut a long story short, as the train was about to leave Reading station, he jumped up, snatched the bag from the two IRA guys and leapt off the train. He ran towards his sisters house (a mile or two away) before opening the bag and realising what it was. He dropped the bag outside his sisters house (I'm sure she thanked him for that!) and ran off screaming it was a bomb.
The Police were called, and retrieved the bomb and later the petty thief. At first they planned to prosecute him, but they could see he was so frightened (of retribution from the IRA), that they ended up commending him for preventing a bomb attack and releasing him uncharged.
This may sound like bull, but I can assure you it is true, the local paper still makes mention of it (somewhat briefly) on the following webpage - see the last paragraph! http://www.getreading.co.uk/story.asp?intid=9366
Readings Abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I (he was also buried here when he died). Henry's daughter Matilda visited Santiago de Compostela in Spain to see the dead body of Saint James. Apparently during this visit, she pulled one of the hands off the corpse and brought it back to Reading and gave it to the monks. As this hand was supposed to heal people, many pilgrims came to Reading and made the Abbey very rich. The Abbey building itself was very grand and even parliament sometimes met there. These days, only some of the walls remain, and the site plays host to outdoor Shakespearian plays during the summer months.
Note:- The Abbey walls are currently being restored and are not completely open to the public at present. However the main part has been completed now and is looking very good with freshly laid and landscaped grass (early Dec 2004).
Just behind the back end of Marks and Spencers is a statue of Queen Victoria. In case you don't know, Queen Victoria was Queen of England for over 60 years and was Britains longest serving monarch. She had a reputation for speaking her mind. So it is not perhaps surprising that she is showing her opinion here!
Occasionally Queen Victoria's headgear changes, and her crown is replaced by a traffic bollard or pigeon, but she always looks decidely unamused.
Rumour has it, that the reason she is facing away from the town is due to her dislike of Reading.
St Mary's Butts Church has an interesting checkerboard brickwork. If you enlarge the picture you will be able to see this.
The name of the church is pretty strange, and at one point, gave its name to the rather outdated Broad Street Mall (originally called the 'Butts Shopping Centre', although this name got dropped for some unknown reason ;-) )
Interestingly, the name actually came about because King Edward IV decreed at one point that every Englishman should have a bow (as in bow and arrow) that was as tall as he was, and that every town should have a Butts where the archery practice could take place. The area in front of St Mary's butts was exactly where this practice area was. Indeed some of Readings Archers fought at the Battle of Agincourt. The Archery Butts stopped being used in 1631, when the town of Reading paid the sum of £3 for the privilege of stopping.
All that is left of Huntley & Palmers (Readings famous biscuit makers) these days is the Recreational Club Headquarters. The rest of the buildings that were Huntley & Palmers have been demolished and replaced by (amongst other things) a large building for the Prudential.
This building has been converted into social housing for people of Reading. The old Huntley & Palmers sign has been restored to its former glory, the the old building does actually look quite good still!
If you have young children, or just like wildlife, then it is well worth heading for the River Thames. A large group of swans (100+) congregate just behind the Caversham hotel, which is just inbetween Caversham Bridge and Reading Rowing Club. If you do feed the swans, please do not feed them right next to the landing stages used by the rowers as otherwise the swans swim right next to them and get clobbered by the rowers oars as they come in (rowers go backwards, so it can be hard for them to see a swan moving around just behind them!).
There has been free parking just behind the rowing club. There are rumours that the council will start charging for it, but it is unlikely to be expensive.
Of course the best way to feed the swans is just to jump on into the river and feed them by hand, but I can understand if this isn't to everyones tastes... (The swans are up in the top corner of the picture).
Reading has historically been famous for the 3 B's. There is no debate that two of these B's were Biscuits (Huntley and Palmers - see separate tip) and Beer (there is still the Courage Brewery by the M4 junction today). There is however some debate as to whether the Third B stood for bricks. There is no doubt however that as you go through Reading you will see a lot of impressively built brick buildings from yesteryear. The Town Hall (which also houses the Reading Museum) is a good example of one of these buildings.
This Museum appears to have changed names very recently and is now called the Riverside Museum at Blake's Lock. It shows how Reading used the River thames and Kennet and Avon Canal to generate power and the history of the town around these waterways.
Firstly it is worth noting that Forbury Gardens are closed for renovation until March 2005. The Lion is also being renovated and is currently under scaffolding.
This Lion was designed as a War memorial to men from Berkshire who died fighting in Afghanistan in 1880 (in a town called Maiwand - hence the Lions name of "Maiwand Lion"). The Lion was sculpted by George Blackall Simonds and unveiled in 1886. Unfortunately the sculptor forgot to analyse the way Lions walk, and sculpted him with his legs in such a manner that a real Lion would fall over if he ever tried to walk this way. Urban legend has it that when the sculptor realised this very basic error, he committed suicide.
Note:- To see the Lion without wrapping please see the link provided.
It may seem a little bizarre to recommend strolling past the side of a prison, but Chestnut Walk (more recently renamed Oscar Wilde Walk) is a very pleasant stroll along the Kennet and Avon Canal. At one end is Hombase, and the other end the Abbey Ruins and a very short walk to Forbury Gardens. A nice time to walk along is late September when the conkers are starting to fall but the leaves are still on the trees.
The name Oscar Wilde Walk is taken from the time when Reading Gaol hosted Oscar Wilde for the 'offence' of "laying down with another man".
A picturesque place on the River Thames, the Promenade is very popular among the locals for a huge flock of swans living in the area.
When a swan - Tom - died in an accident a couple years ago (Tom was killed by a dog), local newspapers published the story on their first pages and people laid flowers on the place the incident happened.
The Abbey of Reading, dedicated to the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, was founded by King Henry I in June 1121. A plaque says that Henry I was buried under one of the walls of the Abbey.
Henry VIII had the last abbot Hugh Cook executed on 14 November 1539 although they had been quite friendly before.
If you go to the ruins on 14 November night, you may be lucky to see the ghosts of the two former friends riding from Abbey eastwards on horseback.
Every July a local theatre company offers an open-air performance of a Shakespeare play in the ruins.
Reading's river is a surprisingly attractive one. For years it was hidden from the centre of town behind the brewery, but since the brewery was demolished and The Oracle built on the site, it has been made a feature.
It rises in the Wiltshire downs near Avebury, and has no industry to speak of on its banks for its whole length until it reaches the Thames a short distance east of Reading town centre. So it remains a gently chalk river all the way.
Although it runs through Reading in a man-made channel with flood controls, it's still liable to flooding in Winter, though not as severely as the Thames. Compare this picture, taken on 5 January 2003, with the one on the front page!
If you are in Reading, dont miss the chance to see museum.
Reading Museum Service aims to be a centre of excellence in providing opportunities for life-long learning through real objects and original documents.