Readinet - The interactive guide to Reading, UK


Reading probably began life around 870AD. A fortification had been built between the Rivers Kennet and Thames by the Danes, who used it as a base to launch countrywide invasions during the Viking wars of the time. King Alfred the Great and his older brother King Æthelred led many battles against the Danes there. The place became known as 'Readingum', Saxon for 'the place of Reada's people'. (However, a plausible alternative explanation for the name may have come from the Celtic 'Rhydd-Inge' meaning 'Ford over the River' - the river in question being the Kennet.) The heart of the town was around where the market is today - at St. Mary's Butts, where St. Birinus is said to have founded a small chapel in the 7th Century. 'The Butts' are so called from when the townspeople practiced their archery there.

By 1086, Reading had a population of 500, and in 1121 Henry I laid the foundation stone of Reading Abbey. The archway of the abbey mill, still spanning the Holy Brook, can be visited from the path from Prudential's Abbey Gardens building to the Central Library - which itself stands on the site of the abbey stables. Alongside the Forbury Gardens is the inner gateway of the Abbey, which once housed the school which Jane Austen attended.

Later, the centre of Reading moved eastwards. A new road was constructed, along with another bridge over the Kennet, to direct traffic towards the new Market Place, then located conveniently next to the outer (Exchequer) Gate of the Abbey. The intention was for London Street, the High Bridge (now Duke Street) and Market Place to become the hub that Southampton Street, Bridge Street and St. Mary's Butts once were. This new Market Place was soon dominated by a new church, dedicated to St. Laurence. The town expanded, and by 1200 had a third church to the south, St. Giles's.

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Reading Berkshire
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland RG12WJ

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