Reading, Berkshire, UK

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In England, large towns cannot call them cities; they have to get a royal status and had always had to. In effect, some important Medieval cities are now dwarfed by large industrial towns. Reading has claim to fame by being England's largest town, being over 20 times the size of the smallest city (Wells, Somerset).

Reading also happens to be the largest place on the London Commuter Belt (the towns and counties which surround London). It is also the County Town of Berkshire, although only since the Victorian era. Beforehand this was Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK.

You want to go from "Reeding" to "Sluff"? Where's that?

Don't fall into that trap and get it right. It's prouncoued "Redding".


Earley History of Reading

The name has nothing to do with literacy. This could have come from Celtic meaning "Ford over the River" although it most likely came from "Readda" + "ing" (people). In a similar way, the people of Wocca lived in Woking and Basa in Basingstoke.

Reading began as a settlement by the River Thames and Kennet. It had an abbey, and the front area by the abbey (The Forbury) since became Forbury Gardens. By the time of the Civil War it was the largest town in Berkshire with a big cloth trade. The Royalists then attacked and captured Reading, and while they occupied it they messed up its trade. By the time Parliament won it back, Reading faced a period of slow and painful decline.

Over the next 200 years Reading got back on its feet with new industry and canals. The the Victorian era saw the arrival of the Great West Railway, by which time the town's population was the size of Woodley is today. The railway continued to help Reading grow, and it doubled in size. Beer, bulbs and biscuits were its biggest industries.

Into the 20th century, Reading annexed Caversham on the other side of the Thames, then after German Bombers attempted to bomb the railway lines, Woodley, Earley and Tilehurst became suburbs. In the 1970s, Lower Earley was built, and this was Europe's largest housing estate.


Oscar Wilde


The town is a sort of semi-circular shape with the river and railway making an northern edge, save for Caversham on the north side of the river. There is also a chunk to the southwest which hasn't been built on being on the flood plains of the River Kennet.

Reading's main suburbs are

West/East Reading

These excitingly named places flank the west and east sides of the town centre. Both are Victorian suburbs with terraced housing. West Reading has a small railway station and is centered on Oxford Road, which doesn't go to Oxford but it USED to. To the south is a large open area called Prospect Park, and to the south of that is a residential area called Coley.

East Reading is quite similar and is centered around Cemetery Junction, a notorious bottleneck. It has a park called Palmer Park and to the south is the main site of the University of Reading.


Caversham is to the north. It sits on the north side of the River Thames, and has some of its own shops by the bridge. Caversham Heights to the west and Lower Caversham to the southeast are both residential, as is an estate called Caversham Park Village to the northeast, and Emmer Green to the far north. There is a Waitrose supermarket and


Woodley is to the east. The railway seperates the village of Sonning from it. Woodley began as an insignificant village until the 1930s when an airfield was built by it. The airfield has since been closed and when suburbia invaded it. Woodley also had a lodge, which is now known as Bulmershe Hall, and has a park in its centre called Woodford Park. 1/10 of Reading's population live in the area. The Oakwood Centre is home to the town council with other places such as a café and theatre.


Earley is to the southeast. It can also be spelt as Erleigh or even Erlegh, but is still pronounced the same. Earley houses 15% of Reading's population but really is two parts. Maiden Erlegh, which is by the railway station and the Wokingham Road with its own lake, and the mainly residential Lower Earley to the south which has its own Asda with some surrounding shops.


Whitley is to the south. The southern part of Whitley is called Whitley Wood though the dividing line isn't very clear. The A33 main road to Basingstoke once ran through Whitley, although this was bypassed by the Relief Road. To the west of Whitley is a large business park including the new Green Park which is home to the Madejski Stadium.


Tilehurst is the largest of Reading's suburbs and is home to 1/5 of Readingians/ites (What's the word?). To the south by Prospect Park is its shopping centre including another Asda, while it has a mainline railway station by the river to the north and a Waitrose shop. Along the A4 Bath Road are seperate suburbs of Calcot (west), Southcote (east) and Coley (far east). Tilehurst is joined onto another seperate place in the northwest called Purley-on-Thames.

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