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Reading ( ) is a large town in Englandmarker, located at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennetmarker, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of Londonmarker. For ceremonial purposes it is in the Royal County of Berkshire and has served as the county town since 1867.

Reading was an important national centre in the medieval period, as the site of an important monastery with strong royal connections. Today it remains a commercial centre, with links to information technology and insurance. Reading also hosts two universities, a large student population, and is home to one of England's biggest music festivals.

History

Beginnings

St Mary's church was founded by the 9th century
The settlement was founded at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet in the 8th century as Readingum. The name probably comes from the Readingas, an Anglo-Saxon tribe whose name means "Reada's People" in Old English, or (less probably) the Celtic Rhydd-Inge, "Ford over the River". The name of the settlement was derived from an earlier folk, or tribal, name. Anglo-Saxon names ending in -ingas originally referred not to a place but to a people, in this case specifically the descendants or followers of a man named Reada, literally "The Red One."

In late 870 an army of Danes invaded the then kingdom of Wessexmarker and set up camp at Reading. On 4 January 871, the first Battle of Readingmarker took place, when an army lead by King Ethelred and his brother Alfred the Great attempted unsuccessfully to breach the Dane's defences. The battle is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and this account provides the earliest known written record of the existence of the town of Reading. The Danes remained in Reading until late in 871, when they retreated to winter quarters in London.

By the time of its 1086 Domesday Book listing, the town had grown to contain around 600 people and was a designated borough.

Time of the Abbey

Reading Abbey was founded in 1121
The foundation of Reading Abbeymarker by Henry I in 1121 led to the town becoming a place of pilgrimage. Already acknowledged as a borough by this time, the relationship between the town's burgesses and the Abbey was to prove strained at times. In 1253 Reading's Merchant Guild successfully petitioned for the grant of a charter from the King and negotiated a division of authority with the Abbey. However disputes continued over the Abbey's powers to raise taxes and appoint the Guild's officers. Even the title of the Guild's first officer was open to dispute, with the Guild and, on occasion, the King referring to him as the Mayor, whilst the Abbey continued to call him the Guild Warden.

It is not known exactly how badly Reading was affected by the Black Death that swept through England in the 14th century. But it is known that the abbot of Reading Abbey, Henry of Appleford, was one of its victims in 1361, and that nearby Henleymarker lost 60% of its population.

In 1487, Henry VII granted a further charter that went further than previous charters, although still leaving the appointment of the Mayor/Warden in the hands of the Abbey. This charter, and a subsequent judicial arbitration in 1499, confirmed the Guild as a body corporate in perpetuity.

Dissolution and war

The Abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. The last abbot, Hugh Cook Faringdon, was subsequently tried and convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the Abbey Church. The dissolution initially saw the Mayor appointed by the King's officers administering the dismemberment of the abbey properties. However in 1542 Henry VIII granted the Guild a new charter that permitted the burgesses to elect the Mayor.

By 1525, Reading was the largest town in Berkshire, and tax returns show that Reading was the 10th largest town in England, based on taxable wealth. By 1611, Reading had a population of over 5000 and had grown rich on its trade in cloth, as instanced by the fortune made by local merchant John Kendrick.

At this time, Reading was mostly comprised of traditional timber framed houses, a few examples of which still exist in Castle Street, Market Place and other places. Often the front ground floor of the house was given over to retail activities, with family and lodgers living in the rooms behind and above.

The town played an important role during the English Civil War; it changed hands a number of times. Despite its fortifications, it had a Royalist garrison imposed on it in 1642. The subsequent Siege of Readingmarker by the Parliamentary forces succeeded in April 1643. However, the taxes levied on the town by the garrison badly damaged its cloth trade, and it did not recover.

Reading was also the only site of significant fighting in England during the Revolution of 1688, with the second Battle of Readingmarker.

18th century

Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth
The 18th century saw the beginning of a major iron works in the town and the growth of the brewing trade for which Reading was to become famous. Agricultural products from the surrounding area still used Reading as a market place, especially at the famous Reading cheese fair but now trade was coming in from a wider area.

Reading's trade benefited from better designed turnpike roads which helped it establish its location on the major coaching routes from Londonmarker to Oxfordmarker and the west country. It also gained from increasing river traffic on both the Thames and Kennet. In 1723, despite considerable local opposition, the Kennet Navigation opened the River Kennet to boats as far as Newbury. This opposition stopped when it became apparent the new route benefited the town. The opening of the Kennet and Avon Canalmarker in 1810 made it possible to go by barge from Reading to the Bristol Channelmarker.

Towards the end of the century, Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, lived at Bulmershe Courtmarker, in what is now the Reading suburb of Woodleymarker. Although he moved to Richmondmarker when he was appointed prime minister, he retained his local connections. He donated to the town of Reading the four acres (16,000 m²) of land that is today the Royal Berkshire Hospitalmarker, and his name is commemorated in the town's Sidmouth Street and Addington Road.

19th century

In 1801, the population of Reading was about 9,400. During the 19th century, the town grew rapidly as a manufacturing centre. Reading maintained its representation by two Members of Parliament with the Reform Act 1832, and the borough was one of the ones reformed as a municipal borough by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1836 the Reading Borough Police were founded. The Great Western Railway arrived in 1841, followed by the South Eastern Railway, in 1849, and the London and South Western Railway, in 1856. The Reading Establishment, an early commercial photographic studio, operated in Reading from 1844 to 1847 and was managed by Nicholaas Henneman, a Dutchman and former valet of William Henry Fox Talbot (a pioneer of photography). Many of the images for The Pencil of Nature by Fox Talbot, the first book to be illustrated with photographic prints, were printed in Reading.

In 1851 the population was 21,500. The town became the County Town (superseding Abingdonmarker) in 1867 and became a county borough under the Local Government Act 1888. By 1900, the population was 59,000—large sections of the housing in Reading are terraced, reflecting its 19th century growth. The town has been famous for the "Three Bs" of beer (from 1785 dominated by the Simonds' BreweryIndia Pale Ale was invented in Reading), bulbs (1807–1976, Suttons Seeds), and biscuits (1822–1977, Huntley & Palmers). In the 19th century the town also made 'Reading Sauce', described as a sharp sauce flavoured with onions, spices, and herbs, very much like Worcestershire Sauce.

20th century and beyond

A trolleybus at the Three Tuns terminus, c.1966.
The Three Tuns is now the terminus for the number 17 bus
The town continued to expand in the 20th century, annexing Cavershammarker across the River Thames in Oxfordshire in 1911. This expansion can be seen in the number of 1920s built semi-detached properties, and the 1950s expansion that joined Woodleymarker, Earleymarker and Tilehurstmarker into Reading. Miles Aircraft in Woodley was an important local firm from the 1930s to 1950s. The Lower Earley development, started in the 1970s, was the largest private housing development in Europe. This extended the urban area of Reading up to the M4 motorway, which acts as the southern boundary to the town. Further housing developments have increased the number of modern commuter houses in the surrounding parts of Reading, and 'out-of-town' shopping hypermarkets.

At the end of 1966 the Yield Hall multi-storey car park was opened, providing covered space for 522 cars. It was noted that the ramps were arranged to segregate up-traffic from down-traffic, with "one-way circulation" through most of the building.

The local shopping centre, The Oraclemarker, built in 1999, is named after the 17th century workhouse founded by John Kendrick which previously occupied the site. It provides three storeys of shopping and boosted the local economy by providing 4,000 jobs. Reading has pedestrianised Broad Street.

Governance

Borough of Reading
Geography
Status: Unitary, Borough
Region: South East England
Ceremonial County: Berkshire
Area:
- Total
Ranked 318th
40.40 km²
Admin. HQ: Reading
ONS code: 00MC
Demographics
Population:
- Total ( )
- Density

Ranked

/ km²

Ethnicity (2001 Census data): 86.82% White
5.21% Asian
4.14% Black
2.38% Mixed
0.73% Other
0.72% Chinese.




Politics

http://www.reading.gov.uk/
Leadership: Leader & Cabinet
Executive: Labour (council NOC)
Mayor of Reading Councillor Fred Pugh

Local government

Reading has had some degree of local government autonomy since 1253 when the local merchant guild was granted a royal charter. Over the years since then the town has been run by a borough corporation, as a county borough, and as a district of Berkshire. The Borough of Reading became a unitary authority area in 1998 when Berkshire County Council was abolished under the Banham Review, and is now responsible for all aspects of local government within the borough.

The borough council has bid for city status but these bids have been unsuccessful. The application for city status is politically controversial, with some groups of residents strongly opposed, while others support the bid.

Boundaries

Since 1887, the borough has included the former villages of Southcote and Whitley and small parts of Earley and Tilehurst. By 1911, it also encompassed the Oxfordshire village of Caversham and still more of Tilehurst. A small area of Mapledurhammarker parish was added in 1977. An attempt to take over a small area of Eye & Dunsdenmarker parish in Oxfordshire was rejected because of strong local opposition in 1997.

Reading's municipal boundaries are particularly old and constrained; and proposals occasionally surface to expand the borough to include them. It is believed that Reading's chances of receiving city status would be substantially boosted if these suburbs were to be included within the borough.

However, the constricted nature of the borough also creates more serious difficulties for the town, as it attempts to develop and grow. The diminishing amount of suitable land within the borough's boundary can bring the council in to conflict with those neighbouring it, who in turn have their own priorities and requirements. The longest running example of this is the planned third crossing of the Thames. So far, South Oxfordshire'smarker politicians and residents, whose primary concern is maintaining the non-urbanisation of their region, have successfully opposed this. As a consequence, the debate has at times become somewhat acrimonious between the opposing sides, and little progress has been made.

"However, the process has been painfully slow and it appears that, for every two steps forwards, there are three steps backwards—mainly because of the view of South Oxfordshire district council, which is being incredibly parochial about this matter. Meanwhile, Reading borough council is adopting strategies that prioritise local traffic in Reading, obviously to the detriment of through traffic. We have now reached the point at which we desperately need direct Government intervention to break the logjam between those local authorities."
—Mr. Rob Wilson MP (Reading, East), House of Commons debate.


National government

Reading has elected at least one Member of Parliament to every Parliamentmarker since 1295. Historically Reading was represented by the members for the former Parliamentary Borough of Reading, and the members for the former parliamentary constituencies of Reading, Reading North, and Reading South.

Reading and the surrounding area is divided between the parliamentary constituencies of Reading Eastmarker, represented by Rob Wilson, and Reading Westmarker, represented by Martin Salter. The whole of the town is within the multi-member South East England European constituency.

Town twinning

Reading is twinned with:

Geography

Reading is due west of central London, southeast of Oxfordmarker, east of Bristolmarker, and north of the English south coast. The centre of Reading is on a low ridge between the Rivers Thames and Kennetmarker close to their confluence, reflecting the town's history as a river port. Just before the confluence, the Kennet cuts through a narrow steep-sided gap in the hills forming the southern flank of the Thames flood plain. The absence of a floodplain on the Kennet in this defile enabled the development of wharves.

As Reading has grown, its suburbs have spread in three directions:
  • to the west between the two rivers into the foothills of the Berkshire Downsmarker,
  • to the south and south-east on the south side of the Kennet, and
  • to the north of the Thames into the Chiltern Hillsmarker.


However outside the central area, the floors of the valley containing the two rivers remain largely unimproved floodplain, subject to occasional flooding. Apart from one road across the Kennet floodplain, and the M4 looping to the south, the only routes between the three built-up areas are in the central area, creating road congestion there.

Reading has its own subregional catchment area, incorporating the suburban districts of Earleymarker and Woodleymarker and the surrounding towns of Wokinghammarker, Bracknellmarker, Henley-on-Thamesmarker and Twyfordmarker, plus large villages such as Pangbournemarker, Thealemarker, Winnershmarker, Burghfieldmarker and Shiplakemarker.

Definition

Depending on the definition adopted, neither the town nor the urban area are necessarily co-terminous with the borough.

The borough has a population of 144,000 in an area of 40.40 km², while the Office for National Statistics' definition of the urban area of Reading is significantly larger at 232,662 people in an area of 55.35 km². This latter area – sometimes referred to as Greater Reading – incorporates the town's eastern and western suburbs outside the borough, in the civil parishes of Earleymarker, Woodleymarker, Purley-on-Thamesmarker and Tilehurstmarker (see below for further details). This urban area is itself a component of the Reading/Wokingham Urban Areamarker. Reading is the 17th largest settlement in England, based on the population of the urban area. Furthermore, except for London boroughs, it is the most populous settlement that does not have city status.

Historically, the town of Reading was smaller than the current borough, and has had several definitions over the years. Such definitions include the old ecclesiastical parishes of the churches of St Marymarker, St Laurencemarker and St Gilesmarker, or the even smaller pre-19th century borough.

Suburbs

Besides the town centre, Reading comprises a number of suburbs and other districts, both within the borough itself and within the surrounding urban area. The names and location of these suburbs are in general usage but, except where some of the outer suburbs correspond to civil parishes, there are no formally defined boundaries. The borough itself is unparished, and the ward used to elect the borough councillors generally ignore the accepted suburbs and use invented ward names.

The suburbs and districts include:

Institutions

Religion

Reading Abbey
St Laurence's Church
Reading Minstermarker, or the Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin as it is more properly known, is Reading's oldest ecclesiastical foundation, known to have been founded by the 9th century and possibly earlier. Although eclipsed in importance by the later Abbey, Reading Minster has regained its importance since the destruction of the Abbey.

Reading Abbeymarker was founded by Henry I in 1121. He was buried there, as were parts of Empress Matilda, William of Poitiers, Constance of York, and Princess Isabella of Cornwall, among others. The abbey was one of the pilgrimage centres of medieval England, it held over 230 relics including the hand of St. James. The abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 during the dissolution of the monasteries and Henry VIII had the abbot, Hugh Cook Faringdon, hanged.

The mediaeval borough of Reading was served by three parish churches. Besides Reading Minster, these were St Giles'marker and St Laurence'smarker churches, both of which are still in use as Anglican churches. The Franciscan friars built a friary in the town in 1311 and after the friars were expelled in 1538, the building was used as a hospital, a poorhouse and a jail, before being restored as the Anglican parish church of Greyfriars Churchmarker in 1863. There are several other Anglican parish churches in areas that are now part of suburban Reading.

St James' Churchmarker was built on a portion of the site of the abbey between 1837 and 1840, and marked the return of the Roman Catholic faith to Reading. Reading was also the site of the death of Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Catholic missionary to England in the 19th century who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic faith.

The Central Reading Mosque is a mosque in Waylen Street close to the town centre.

Education

University of Reading War Memorial clock tower
Reading Schoolmarker, founded in 1125, is the tenth oldest school in England. It is based in Victorian buildings designed by Alfred Waterhouse on Erleigh Road. There are six other state secondary schools and 37 state primary schools within the borough, together with a number of private and independent schools and nurseries. Some of the designated schools for pupils in the borough's catchment areas are actually in the neighbouring boroughs. Besides mainstream schools the Reading area has a Steiner-Waldorf school and an active Education Otherwise home schooling network.

The University of Reading was established in 1892 as an affiliate of Oxford Universitymarker, and moved to its London Road Campusmarker in 1904. Reading was chartered as an independent university in 1926 and moved onto its new Whiteknights Campusmarker in 1947. It took over the Bulmershe teacher training college in 1982, becoming Bulmershe Court Campusmarker. The Henley Management Collegemarker, situated in Buckinghamshire and about from Reading, was taken over in 2008, becoming Greenlands Campusmarker. All four campuses are still in use, although Whiteknights is by far the largest.

Thames Valley University, which also has campuses in Sloughmarker and Ealingmarker, now runs what was previously Reading College and School of Arts and Design on two sites in east Reading.

Libraries and museums

Reading Town Hall now houses the Museum of Reading
The Reading Borough Public Librarymarker service dates back to 1877. The Central Library which was opened in 1985 contains the Reading Local Studies Library which provides books, maps, and illustrations of the history of the town and Berkshire.

The Museum of Readingmarker opened in 1883 in the Town Hall, parts of which date back to 1786. The museum contains galleries relating to the history of Reading and its related industries and to the excavations of Calleva Atrebatummarker (Silchester Roman Town), together with a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, an art collection, and galleries relating to Huntley and Palmers

The Museum of English Rural Lifemarker, in Redlands Road, is a museum dedicated to recording the changing face of farming and the countryside in Englandmarker. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. It is owned and run by the University of Reading.

On the University of Reading's Whiteknights Campus can be found the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and Cole Museum of Zoology, together with the Harris Botanic Gardensmarker. In the suburb of Woodleymarker, the Museum of Berkshire Aviationmarker has a collection of aircraft and other artifacts relating to the aircraft industry in the town.

Healthcare

The new entrance block for the Royal Berkshire Hospital
The principal National Health Service (NHS) hospital in Reading is the Royal Berkshire Hospitalmarker, founded in 1839 and much enlarged and rebuilt since. There was a second major NHS general hospital, the Battle Hospitalmarker, but this closed in 2005 with the patients and most staff moved to the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust runs a NHS hospital, Prospect Park Hospital, that specialises in the provision of care for people with mental health and learning disabilities.

Reading has two private hospitals, the Berkshire Independent Hospital in Coley Parkmarker and the Dunedin Hospital situated on the main A4marker Bath Roadmarker.

Economy

Reading is an important commercial centre in Southern England and is often referred to as the commercial capital of the Thames Valleymarker. The town hosts the headquarters of British companies and the UK offices of foreign multinationals, as well as being a major retail centre.

Industry

Prudential's administrative centre
The Oracle Corporation campus
Reading has a significant historical involvement in the information technology industry, largely as a result of the early presence in the town of sites of International Computers Limited and Digital. Whilst both these companies have been swallowed by other groups, their respective descendents in Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard both still have local operations. More recently Microsoft and Oracle have established multi-building campuses in the town. Other technology companies with a significant presence in the town include Agilent Technologies, Audio & Design Ltd, Bang & Olufsen, Cisco, Comptel, Harris Corporation, Intelmarker, Nvidiamarker, Sage, Sagem Orga, SGI, Symantec, Symbol Technologies, Verizon Business, Virgin Media, Websense, Xansa (now Steria), and Xerox.

The financial company ING Direct has its headquarters in Reading, as does the directories company Yell Group and the natural gas major BG Group. The insurance company Prudential has an administration centre in the town, whilst PepsiCo and Holiday Inn have offices. As with most major cities, Reading also has offices of the big 4 accounting firms Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopersmarker.

These companies are distributed around Reading, including in business parks just inside or outside the borough boundary. Prudential and Yell, together with most of the accountancy companies, have their offices in central Reading. Thames Valley Business Parkmarker is home to the Microsoft and Oracle campuses, as well as BG Group and ING Direct. GreenPark Business Parkmarker is home to Symantec and Cisco, whilst the nearby Reading International Business Park is home to Verizon Business. Winnersh Triangle Business Park is home to technology companies, whilst Arlington Business Park is home to KPMG, Nvidia and PepsiCo.

Retail

Broad Street
The Riverside level at The Oracle
Union Street known locally as Smelly Alley
Reading town centre is a major shopping centre. The primary catchment area for the town centre for ngest single flow of generated expenditure) for non-bulky comparison goods extends as far as Goring-on-Thamesmarker, Henley-on-Thamesmarker, Pangbournemarker and Wokinghammarker. The secondary catchment area (the area where the centre attracts 10% or more of generated expenditure) also includes Ascotmarker, Bracknellmarker, Camberleymarker, Didcotmarker, Farnboroughmarker, Fleetmarker, High Wycombemarker, Maidenheadmarker, Newburymarker, Sloughmarker, Tadleymarker, Thatchammarker, Wallingfordmarker and Windsormarker. In 2007 an independent poll placed Reading as one of the top ten retail destinations in the UK.

The principal town centre shopping area is around Broad Streetmarker, which was pedestrianised in 1995. Broad Street is anchored at its east and west ends respectively by The Oraclemarker and Broad Street Mallmarker enclosed shopping centres. The Oracle shopping centre regularly attracts over 250,000 people passing through on a Saturday alone.

There are three major department stores in Reading: John Lewis Readingmarker (formerly known as Heelas), Debenhams and House of Fraser. There are also branches of chain stores, including Bhs, Boots, fcuk, H&M, Marks and Spencers, Next, Primark and W H Smith. The booksellers Waterstone's have two branches in Reading. Their Broad Street branchmarker is of interest, as it is a conversion of a nonconformist chapel dating from 1707.

Besides the two major shopping malls, Reading has three smaller shopping arcades, the Bristol and West Arcade, Harris Arcade and The Walk, which contain smaller specialist stores. An older form of retail facility is represented by Union Street, popularly known as Smelly Alley, due to the former presence of many open-fronted fishmongers and butchers. The occupancy has shifted towards major retail chains, although a few of independent shops, including a fishmonger and butcher remain.

Unlike many English cities, Reading has no indoor market hall. There is a street market at Hosier Street in the town centre, open from Wednesday to Saturday, with 60 stalls selling a mixture of food, flowers and plants, cultural goods, and household goods. A farmers' market operates on two Saturdays a month at the cattle market.

Other than the markets, Marks and Spencers, a few small supermarket branches, and a few speciality shops, food retail has largely deserted the town centre. Large branches of Tescomarker, Sainsbury'smarker, Asda, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose supermarket chains can be found in suburban and edge of town locations.

Utilities

Mains water and sewerage services are supplied by Thames Water plc, a private sector water supply company. Water abstraction and disposal is regulated by the Environment Agency. Reading's water supply is largely derived from underground aquifers, and as a consequence the water is hard.

The commercial energy supplier for electricity and gas is at the consumer's choice. Southern Electric runs the local electricity distribution network, while Scotia Gas Networks runs the gas distribution network. One notable part of the local energy infrastructure is the presence of a 2 megawatt (peak) Enercon wind turbine at GreenParkmarker, which is wired to the local sub-grid. It was constructed in November 2005 just outside the borders of the borough in the civil parish of Shinfieldmarker and is owned by Ecotricity. This turbine can be seen from a large part of Reading, as well as from junction 11 of the M4. The turbine has the potential to produce 3.5 million units of electricity a year, enough to power over a thousand homes.

BT provides fixed-line telephone coverage throughout the town, and ADSL broadband internet connection to most areas. Parts of Reading are cabled by Virgin Media, supplying cable television, telephone and broadband internet connections. The dialling code for fixed-line telephones is 0118.

Mobile phone service is available throughout the town, from all the UK licensed network operators and using the GSM and UMTS standards.

Transport

Reading's location in the Thames Valley to the west of London makes the town an important location in the nation's transport system.

River transport

High Bridge on the River Kennet
The town grew up as a river port at the confluence of the Thames and Kennetmarker. Both of these rivers are navigable, and the locks of Caversham Lockmarker, Blake's Lockmarker, County Lockmarker, Fobney Lockmarker and Southcote Lockmarker are all within the borough. Today navigation is exclusively leisure oriented, with private and hire boats dominating traffic.

Scheduled boat services operate on the Thames, operating from wharves on the Reading side of the river near Caversham Bridgemarker. Salters Steamers operate a summer daily service from just downstream of the bridge to Henley-on-Thamesmarker, taking around two hours in each direction and calling at the riverside villages of Sonningmarker and Shiplakemarker. Thames River Cruises operate trips from just upstream of the bridge, including a service on summer weekends and bank holidays to Mapledurhammarker, taking 45 minutes in each direction and allowing two hours ashore for visits to Mapledurham Watermillmarker and Mapledurham Housemarker.

Road transport

Reading Bridge on the River Thames
Reading was a major staging point on the old Bath Road marker from Londonmarker to Bathmarker and Bristolmarker. This road still carries local traffic, but has now been replaced for long distance traffic by the M4 motorway, which closely skirts the borough and serves it with three junctions (J10,J11,J12).

Within Reading there is the Inner Distribution road (IDR), a ring road for local traffic movements. The council has put forward a plan to make the IDR one-way. This has proved highly controversial and the plan is waiting to be formally abandoned.

The A329(M), A33 and A4 national routes link the town with junctions 10, 11 and 12 of the M4 motorway respectively. The IDR is linked with the M4 by the A33 relief road, which runs past the Madejski Stadiummarker and Green Park Business complex. National Express Coaches run out of Calcot, just off the M4 at junction 12.

The Thames is crossed by both Readingmarker and Cavershammarker road bridges, while several road bridges cross the Kennet. There has long been a desire to construct a third bridge across the Thames, to the east of the existing bridges. Some people believe that this will remove one of the town's bottlenecks and ease traffic congestion. Others believe that it will induce more traffic, move bottle necks and open up swathes of South Oxfordshire to unwanted development. However, the proximity of the county border means that any such route will have to pass through South Oxfordshire, and this development has so far been blocked by its residents and politicians.

Rail transport

Reading is a major junction point on the national rail system, and as a consequence Reading stationmarker is a major transfer point as well as serving heavy originating and terminating traffic. Plans have been agreed to rebuild Reading station, with grade separation of some conflicting traffic flows and extra platforms, to relieve severe congestion at this station.

Railway lines link Reading to both Paddingtonmarker and Waterloomarker stations in Londonmarker. The route to Paddington offers both non-stop (taking around 30 minutes) and stopping services, whilst that to Waterloo offers only a stopping service. Inter-city services also link Reading to Swindonmarker, Bristolmarker, Cardiffmarker and South Walesmarker, Exetermarker, Plymouthmarker and South West England, Birminghammarker and the North of England, and Southamptonmarker and Bournemouthmarker. Local services link Reading to Oxfordmarker, Newburymarker, Basingstokemarker, Guildfordmarker and Gatwick Airportmarker.

Other stations in the Reading area are Reading Westmarker, Tilehurstmarker and Earleymarker, but all serve local trains only. A new Reading GreenPark railway stationmarker is planned.

Air transport

RailAir coaches in Reading awaiting their departure to Heathrow Airport
There have been two airfields in Reading, one at Coley Parkmarker and one at Woodleymarker, but these have both closed. Today Reading is within reach of several international airports.

The nearest airport is London Heathrowmarker, which is away by road. An express bus service named RailAir links Reading with Heathrow, or the airport can be accessed by changing at Hayes and Harlington railway stationmarker from the local rail service to Paddington to the Heathrow Connect rail service.

London Gatwickmarker is away by road and is served by direct trains from Reading. London Lutonmarker is also away by road, whilst London Stanstedmarker is away; both can be reached by rail by changing stations in central London. The airport at London Citymarker can also be reached by a combination of rail services.

Away from London, Southampton Airportmarker and Birmingham Airportmarker are both served by direct trains from Reading and can be faster to reach than the more distant of the London airports. Southampton is away by road, whilst Birmingham is distant.

Local public transport

A bus running on Reading Buses route number 17
Local public transport is largely road-based, and can be affected by peak hour congestion in the borough. A frequent local bus network within the borough, and a less frequent network in the surrounding area, are provided by Reading Buses. Other bus operators include:



Culture

The Town Hall, Reading

Music

The NME/Radio 1 tent at the 2005 Reading Festival
Every year Reading hosts the Reading Festival, which has been running since 1971. The festival takes place on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend. Since 1999, Reading has been twinned with a simultaneous festival in Leedsmarker, with the same acts appearing at both festivals on different days. In 2005, the main festival spawned the Reading Fringe Festival. Set up by a group of musicians, promoters, film-makers and artists, and now in its 6th year, to help showcase acts and performers in the towns venues in the runnup to the main festival.

For some twenty years up until 2006, Reading was also known for its WOMAD festival. However the event eventually outgrew its Rivermead site. As of 2007, amid much controversy,the event relocated to Wiltshiremarker in the form of Womad Charlton Park. The Head of Culture, Chris Smith - tasked with keeping WOMAD in Reading - was on holiday at the time of the announcement that WOMAD was to move. He later took a senior job with WOMAD.

Perhaps the most notable home-grown artist is Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame. Slowdive, The Cooper Temple Clause, Stuart Price, Morning Runner, My Luminaries, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, OK Tokyo, Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip, Pete and The Pirates, SixNationState, Pure Reason Revolution, Exit Ten, Bennet and Mr Fogg have had some degree of success. David Byron, first and most famous singer of hard rock band Uriah Heep lived his last years in Reading before he died in 1985. The Chemical Brothers attended Reading Blue Coat school.

Reading plays host to semi-professional and amateur choirs and choral societies. Reading Festival Chorus has celebrated its 60th anniversary. RFC sings a diverse music programme, with works like Mozart's Requiem, Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man in 2005 to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and a summer programme of English and American Folk songs by Tippett and Aaron Copland.

Reading has several orchestras. The long-established Reading Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is one of the town's amateur orchestras, led by a professional conductor and leader. It presents four main concerts a year, and is often engaged to work in collaboration with other musical organisations and for private functions. The Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra (APO), founded in 2002 and named after Richard Aldworth, the founder of Reading Blue Coat Schoolmarker, rehearses and plays most of its concerts at the school. APO's remit is to be as innovative as possible, giving local people the chance to play by rehearsing exclusively at weekends, attracting a wider audience to classical music (especially younger people) through its 'Concert Virgin Scheme' and education projects, and championing the music of talented young composers. Reading Youth Orchestra (RYO) provides an opportunity for younger musicians.

Theatre

Reading theatre venues include The Hexagonmarker and 21 South Street, which are professional venues supported by Reading Borough Council. The Hexagon is a multi-purpose venue in the heart of Reading that provides rock, pop, comedy, classical music and dance as well as theatre. Recent performances have included Reel Big Fish and their mix of ska-punk as well as comedy from Russell Howard. South Street presents performing arts from both the professional and community sectors, including fringe theatre, comedy, music, dance and live literature.

Amateur theatre venues in Reading include Progress Theatre, a self-governing, self-funding theatre group and registered charity founded in 1947 that operates and maintains its own 97-seat theatre. Progress Theatre produces a yearly open air Shakespeare production in the Reading Abbeymarker Ruins that has come to represent a highlight of Reading's cultural calendar.

Arts

Reading has a history of grassroots arts movements. 21 South Street, previously an unemployment (dole) office, was temporarily occupied by artists in the late 1980s, and this action eventually led to its becoming a Council run Art Centre. Similarly, an occupation of the condemned former Huntley and Palmer's building in 1989 took place by a collective of artists, calling it the Biscuit Base, in an attempt to put pressure on Reading Borough Council to provide more art space. This action did not secure it as art space, but did eventually lead to it being recognised by the council as a historic building. The facade was reprieved from demolition and converted to housing. in 1990, participants in the failed Biscuit Base action occupied a former temperance house in Silver Street which became the town's independent art centre The Rising Sun.

Media

Reading has two local newspapers.

Three local radio stations broadcast from Reading: BBC Radio Berkshire, Reading 107 FM and Heart Berkshire. Other local radio stations, such as London's 95.8 Capital FM, Basingstoke's 107.6 Kestrel FM and Slough's Star 106.6 can also be received.

Local television news programmes are the BBC's South Today and ITV's Meridian Tonight.

The local Blah Blah magazine provides free monthly arts and entertainment listings.

Sports

The Reading Half Marathon climbing Russell Street in West Reading in 2004
The Madejski Stadium, during a game against Swansea in 2008
The Reading Half Marathon is held on the streets of Reading in March of each year, with as many as 13,000 competitors from elite to fun runners.

Reading is the home of Reading Football Club, an association football club nicknamed The Royals, who were formed in 1871. Formerly based at Elm Parkmarker, the club plays at the 24,500 capacity Madejski Stadiummarker in the south of the town near the M4 motorway. The stadium is named after chairman John Madejski, who has owned the club since 1991. Reading FC won promotion to the top flight for the first time in 2006 as Football League Championship champions with a national record of 106 points. They finished eighth in their first season as a top division club (just missing out on a UEFA Cup place) but were relegated the following season. The club's current manager in Brendan Rodgers.

Reading is a centre for rugby union football in the area, with the Guinness Premiership team London Irish as tenants at the Madejski Stadium. Reading is also home to another three senior semi-professional rugby clubs; Reading Abbey R.F.C., Redingensians R.F.C. and Reading R.F.C. The town hosts several other football variants, such as Gaelic football's St. Anthony's GAA, Australian rules football team Reading Kangaroos, and American football team Berkshire Renegades.

The sport of field hockey is represented by Reading Hockey Club, who play in the Men's Premier Division and the Women's Division One of English Hockey League. The Reading Rockets are a basketball club that play in the English Basketball League.

Like many Thames-side towns, Reading has rowing clubs, representing both town and university. The local Redgrave-Pinsent Rowing Lakemarker provides training facilities, although much rowing is also conducted on the river itself. Dorney Lakemarker, some 27 km (17 miles) to the east of Reading, provides a full international competition venue and will host the rowing events of the 2012 Summer Olympics. There are also several sailing lakes to the south and southwest of the town, the largest being Theale Lake (home of Burghfield Sailing Club) close to junction 12 of the M4. These lakes are also popular with water-skiing and jet-skiing enthusiasts.

From 1984 to 1994, The Hexagonmarker theatre was home to snooker's Grand Prix tournament, one of the sport's 'big four' Grand Slam events.

Britain's first-ever triathlon was held outside Reading at Kirtons's Farm in Pingewood in June 1983. The Reading International Triathlon was revived by Banana Leisure in 1994 and 1995. Thames Valley Triathletes, based in the town, is Britain's oldest triathlon club, with origins in the 1984 event at nearby Heckfield. The British Triathlon Association was also formed at the town's former "Mall" health club in 1982.

Reading's Palmer Parkmarker also hosted the UK's first-ever outdoor Aerobics display; pre-dating the more famous Hyde Park (London) event by a year.

Reading-born Richard Burns became the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship, in 2001.

The town is home to Reading Greyhound Racingmarker and there is a velodrome at Palmer Parkmarker where many of Britain's junior champions train and race.

The town is home to the Reading Racers speedway team. The sport came to Reading in 1968 at Tilehurst Stadium but this closed and the site was redeveloped. The team took a year off whilst the current venue was built. This venue is also due to close at the end of 2008 and another year off is anticipated as another new venue is built. The history of Reading Racer has recently (2008) been set out in a book by Arnie Gibbons.

Literature

Reading Gaol, one time home to Oscar Wide
The Abbey Gateway, where Jane Austen went to school


Reading's best known literary connection is with Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned in Reading Gaolmarker from 1895 to 1897. While he was there he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905. After his release he lived in exile in Francemarker and wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol, based on his experience of an execution carried out in Reading Gaol whilst he was imprisoned there. This was first published in 1898 under the pseudonym C.3.3, Wilde's erstwhile cell number.

Several authors have written about Reading. Thomas Hardy painted a rather disparaging picture of the town, lightly disguised as Aldbrickham, in his 1895 novel Jude the Obscure. Jerome K. Jerome also did not warm to the town on his famous journey up the Thames in Three Men in a Boat (1888). He does, however, recognise the historical significance of Reading. Jasper Fforde set his series of Jack Spratt literary crime novels in this town. The comic novel A Melon for Ecstasy by John Fortune and John Wells is set in and around Reading.

Other authors lived in and around Reading. Jane Austen attended Reading Ladies Boarding School, based in the Abbey Gateway, in 1784-86. Mary Russell Mitford lived in Reading for a number of years and then spent the rest of her life just outside the town at Three Mile Crossmarker and Swallowfieldmarker. Thomas Noon Talfourd, the judge and dramatist was born in Reading and later became MP for the town.

T. E. Lawrence lost the first draft of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading railway station. Charles Dickens was asked to stand as MP for Reading, but declined. He became president of the Reading Athenaeum. In his novel Bleak House, Esther Summerson goes to school in Reading. His great-granddaughter Monica Dickens died in Reading in 1992.

Other

A Reading edition of Monopoly is available (see Localized versions of the Monopoly game). Perhaps surprisingly, given its size and status in the South East, Reading is not yet officially a city, having missed out during the millennium celebrations when the Queen instead granted Brighton and Hove city status in 2000.

The interview show As It Happens, which airs on CBC Radio One in Canadamarker, is notable for its mention of Reading. Frequently, after concluding an interview with someone in the UK, the host will describe the individual in relation to how far they live from Reading. For example, one might hear "That was professional bagpiper William J. Tweed from Biggleswademarker, which is about 81 miles north of Reading."

In 1974, the BBC filmed The Family in Reading. The show, considered to one of the first reality television shows, followed the lives of the Wilkins family.

The roadside chain of restaurants Little Chef began in the town back in 1958. Its first branch was a small eleven-seater venue.

When Ricky Gervais (who comes from Reading) used to perform a stand-up comedy segment on the British TV show The 11 O'Clock Show, he would often (comically) describe the residents of the Reading suburb Whitleymarker as the lowest members of society. This turned Whitley into a household name for the duration of the series. His upcoming film Cemetery Junction will be based in 1970s Reading and is named after a busy junction in East Readingmarker.

Charlie Brooker was also born, though not raised in Reading.

Reading in Pennsylvaniamarker and Reading in Massachusettsmarker are both named after Reading.

Lead singer of 'odd-pop' group The Hoosiers Irwin Sparkes is from Woodley. He supports Reading FC and in the music video for The Hoosiers' song 'Goodbye Mr. A, he can be seen playing as the team on a football game.

Golden Globe and Oscar Awards winning actress Kate Winslet was born and raised in Reading. Her husband, award winning director Sam Mendes was also born, though not raised in Reading.

Soul singer Glen Goldsmith was born in Reading in 1965 and helped pen the massive 1996 record hit called "Mysterious Girl" by Peter Andre.

In a 2007 poll by Readers Digest, Reading was named the worst place to live for families.

See also



References

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