Reading – Overview of the city

Reading is a county, market town in Berkshire, England, located in the Thames Valley by the River Thames and Kennet. The town is situated on the Great Western Railway Line, developed in the 19th Century, and the M4 Motorway. It is a town of historical importance as it was a key trading and ecclesiastical centre in the medieval period.

Reading was founded over the 6th century by the Saxons who had travelled up the Rivers Thames and Kennet, then finding the town a suitable place to settle as it was possible to ford the River Kennet. The county town’s trade benefited from advanced turnpike roads which helped establish the major stagecoach routes from London. Two of the major coaching inns still survive today. There are two major coaching inns still around today, representing the towns historical heritage. The George on Kings Street dates back to 1423 and is one of the oldest buildings in Reading town centre, with many of its original features still standing.

Today Reading is known for its major commercial centre, as well as workings with information technology and insurance. Despite being located within such a close proximity to London, Reading also has a net inward commuter flow. Reading is 40 miles west of London and 40 miles east of Swindon, therefore is a great location to commute from with ideal travel links. It is positioned the UK’s top economic area for economic success and wellbeing, according to considerations such as employment, health, income and skills.

Reading has acted as the county town of Berkshire since 1867, with the borough being represented by two members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Despite bidding on numerous occasions, Reading is one of the largest areas in the UK without a city status. Bids were made for a city status in 2000, to celebrate the new millennium; 2002 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth and in 2012 during the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, however all three of these bids were unsuccessful leaving Reading with the town status it has today.

Reading is also a key regional retail centre serving a large area of the Thames Valley, the Oracle is a large indoor shopping and leisure mall that is located on the banks of the River Kennet, 1.3 miles from Reading Railway Station. The Oracle is named after the 17th-century Oracle workhouse, which once occupied a small part of the site. It provides three storeys of shopping space and boosted the local economy by providing 4,000 jobs. The town is also home to the University of Reading, categorised as a red brick university, as it still has the original foundation from the 19th century. The University of Reading has four major campuses and is 40.5 miles out from London via A4 and M4.

Every summer crowds of people flood to Reading for the popular annual Reading Festival, one of the biggest music festivals in the UK. The event takes place across August bank holiday weekend, held at Little Johns Farm near Caversham Bridge. Reading Festival is the worlds oldest popular music festival that still exists today and is still booming with popularity. The event has hosted many of the UK’s biggest music talents.

The local government of Reading town is primarily supplied by Reading Borough Council, however some of the towns outer suburbs which sit in West Berkshire and Wokingham have unitary authorities. In the town centre of reading is Forbury Gardens, a large public park that exists on the site of the outer court of Reading Abby. Although, the largest park is Prospect Park, in the western suburbs of Reading situated north of Bath Road in the Berkshire.