The University town of Reading in the Royal County of Berkshire, situated on the M4 corridor and on the Great Western main line railway, is recognised as the commercial centre of the Thames Valley and a town of historic importance.
Reading, mentioned in the Domesday Book, has grown in importance through the centuries and undoubtedly benefitted from its royal connections. The ruins of the Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, are to be found in the centre of the town. Reading played a prominent role in the English Civil War, was a major coaching route from London to Oxford and the West Country, and saw the arrival of the Great Western Railway and the South Eastern Railway together with the opening of the Kennet and Avon Canal in the 1800’s. Located on the River Thames and River Kennet goods were transported along these rivers. However until recent years it was famous for beer, biscuits and bulbs. Reading Gaol in the centre of the town still exists and its most famous inmate being Oscar Wilde where he wrote his ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’.
Reading town provides a transport link between the south and north of England with the M4 from London giving access to the M5, South Wales, and the South West. Basingstoke is approximately 20 minutes by road to the south and gives access to the M3 which runs from London to the South and West. To the north of Reading is the M40 giving access to Birmingham, the M1 and the M6. From the main line railway station there is also a regular coach service to Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Among the many employers in the town are Microsoft, Oracle and BG Group based in Thames Valley Park. Also in the relative new Green Park are Cisco and Symantec companies. Thames Water which is one of the country’s privatised water companies also has its headquarters in the town.
The centre of Reading was redeveloped in 1999 when The Oracle shopping centre was built which houses many well known department stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser which now join John Lewis, formerly known as Heelas, who have had a presence in the town for over 30 years.
Reading – Suburbs
Tilehurst is situated in the west of Reading and has easy access to Junction 12 of the M4 London to the West Country. With its many housing estates, schools, shopping centre, and general amenities together with a good bus service into the centre of Reading with its main line railway station it has proved to be very popular.
Calcot is adjacent to Tilehurst in the west of the town at Junction 12 of the M4 with a residential area of mixed private housing such as Beansheaf Farm and Fords Farm. The former Calcot Park estate is now a golf course and the house has been converted into apartments. The first local radio station for the town broadcasted from premises in Calcot. More recently Sainsbury’s and Next have opened stores in Calcot and it is a stop on the National bus route .
Caversham to the north across the River Thames has a shopping centre with a wide range of small shops together with Waitrose and restaurants. It is split into Caversham Heights, Lower Caversham and Caversham Park Village. The houses in Caversham Heights and Lower Caversham are mostly pre-war but Caversham Park Village was built in the 1960’s. Possibly the most well-known is Caversham Park, originally The Oratory School, became the BBC Listening Service during the World War II and remains a BBC World monitoring station and is the home of BBC Radio Berkshire.
Woodley on the eastern outskirts of Reading was until just before World WarII a small village. In the 1930’s an airfield and flying school was opened but it is now the home of the Berkshire Aviation Museum. The airfield itself is now a private housing estate located close to the Woodley shopping centre with a variety of shops, banks and a Waitrose supermarket. Woodley has a number of primary schools and two Comprehensive schools namely Waingels Copse and Bulmershe, however, part of the University of Reading campus is also located here.
Whitley Wood to the south of Reading is located at Junction 11 of the M4 and although originally consisting of mainly council owned properties many of these have passed into private ownership. A new addition to the area is the John Madejski Academy, a new type of secondary school, with state-of-the-art facilities.
Earley to the south east of Reading is where the University of Reading and the Royal Berkshire Hospital is located. The area has both pre and post war properties some of which have been converted into accommodation for students as well as those working in the NHS. Earley has its own station on the London to Waterloo main line and is approximately three miles north of the M4 Junction 10 accessed via the A329M.
Lower Earley built in 1977 was at that time the largest housing development in Europe. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s Asda supermarket complex and Loddon Valley Leisure Centre was built together with schools and latterly a local police station . Built close to Junction 10 and Junction 11 of the M4 and the A329M Lower Earley with its vast range of properties to suit all price ranges has proved to be a very popular place to live.