A large, historically important minister town, Reading Abbey was one of the richest monasteries of Medieval England, of which the 12th century gateway and abbey ruins remain. The town centre is packed full of historic gems such as this – the old Market Place is flanked by a traditional Town Hall and St Laurence’s Church, while the striking Maiwand Lion acts as an eye-catching war memorial, lining Forbury Gardens in the town. There are six Grade I listed buildings in total, reflecting a wide variety of architectural styles, along with a host of impressive works of public art throughout Reading. The Blade, a 14-storey office building, is the town’s tallest structure, while Jacksons Corner is one of Reading’s most prominent landmarks, and the site of the former Jacksons department store.
Every August Bank Holiday weekend, Reading hosts the Reading Festival – Reading’s answer to Glastonbury. It attracts huge numbers of festival-goers in the summer. There’s also the Reading Beer Festival, which has grown to become one of the largest beer festivals in the country, along with the annual Reading Pride, which takes place each year in Kings Meadow. Theatre venues include The Hexagon, South Street Arts Centre and Progress Theatre, and the town has quite a literary heritage… Jane Austen attended Reading Ladies Boarding School, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol from 1895 to 1897, and our favourite Redingensian, Ricky Gervais, named his film, Cemetery Junction, after a busy junction in the east of the town.
Reading’s location in the Thames Valley, on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, has made the town a significant element in the nation’s transport system. Other main roads serving Reading include the A33, A327, A329, A4074 and A4155, while railway services to London serve both Paddington and Waterloo stations. The nearest airport is London Heathrow, which is 25 miles away by road, while a frequent local bus network operates within the borough.
The town grew in the 18th century as a major iron works, and was also known for its brewing trade. And with the arrival of the railway, Reading’s manufacturing businesses boomed. Today, the town remains a major commercial centre, with involvement in IT and insurance. The town hosts the headquarters of several British companies and the UK office of foreign multinationals, and whilst being located close enough to London, Reading is actually an inward destination for commuters, too. Major companies based in Reading include Microsoft, Oracle, Prudential, PepsiCo and Wrigley, as well as a great number of technology businesses. The town is also a major shopping destination – the main shopping street is Broad Street, which runs between The Oracle and Broad Street Mall, and the town is blessed with three big department stores, John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser.
Reading School is one of the oldest in England, founded in 1125. There are six other state secondary schools and 38 state primary schools within the borough, together with a number of independent schools and nurseries. Reading College provides further education, with over 8,500 local learners on over 900 courses, while the University of Reading offers tertiary education, an affiliate of Oxford University.
The overall average property price for Reading is around £364,086, with terraced properties selling for an average of £323,371. This is largely due to its great transport links and proximity to the capital. In fact, London Irish Rugby Union Club is located in the town.