Reading is a city located in the county of Berkshire in the United Kingdom. It is located at the intersection of the Thames and Kennet Rivers about forty miles west of the city of London. The city covers an area of twenty-five miles and has a population of just over one hundred and forty-five thousand residents. Reading can trace its founding to the eighth century when it was an Anglo Saxon settlement. In the late ninth century, a Danish army invaded Wessex and erected their own settlement at the location of the Anglo Saxon settlement. It would remain a Danish settlement until the beginning of the tenth century when they retreated into the city of London. In the twelfth century, Henry I established the Reading Abbey. This led to the city becoming known as a place of pilgrimage.
In 1538, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and Reading Abbey was destroyed. By the sixteenth century, Reading was a thriving town with a population of over five thousand people and had a prosperous cloth trade. In the eighteenth century, an iron works was erected in the town and the city became known all over Europe for its brewing trade. The town continued to experience growth during the eighteenth century, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century the town had a population of almost ninety-five hundred people. Manfacturing increased in the town and the population continued to grow. By 1851, the population was over twenty-one thousand people. Throughout the twentieth century, the city continued to expand and eventually annexed Caversham. Today, Reading is an important city that is called the commercial capital of the Thames Valley. This city is home to several large corporations which are either based out of, or have a headquarters in Reading. These include Bang & Olufsen, Harris Corporation, Symbol Technologies, Agilent Technologies, Sage, Symantec, KPMG, Ernst and Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Nvidia.
Reading has had many prominent residents over the course of its history. Past residents of the city have included Henry Addington, David Gill, Natalie Dormer, Dick Poole, Kenneth Branagh, John Kendrick, Eliza Bennett, Lucy Benjamin, Dawn French, Solomon Joel, Ricky Gervais, Richard Burns, Mike Oldfield, Angela Browning, Deon Burton, Jane Griffiths, George Palmer, Michael Foot, Mary Russell Mitford, Rufus Isaacs, Lawrie Sanchez, Charles Simeon, Kathy Smallwood, Daniel Blagrave, Jeff Minter, Anna Winslet, Beth Winslet, Kate Winslet, Hugh Cook Faringdon, John Blagrave, Cormac Murphy O’Connor, David Lean, Sam Mendes, Ayrton Senna, John Madejski, David Byron, Louise Setara, Michael Sprott, Dennis Smith, Kevin Warwick, Joseph Huntley, Marianne Faithfull, Levi Stanley, Rudolph Walker and William Henry Fox Talbot.
A popular attraction in the city is the Museum of Reading. The Museum of Reading is in Reading’s Town Hall and contains galleries illustrating the history of the city and its industries. The museum has several sections which include the People and Place Gallery, the Silchester Gallery, Green Space, the Huntley and Palmers Gallery, the Windows Gallery and the John Madejski Art Gallery. The People and Place Gallery documents the city’s history from its beginnings as a Anglo Saxon settlement, all the way to the twentieth century. It features an extensive collection of presentations and interactive displays. The Silchester Gallery houses archeological artifact from around the area of Reading. The Green Space tells the story of the natural and geologic history of the area and contains a fair collection of specimens. The Huntley and Palmer Exhibit illustrates the history of the biscuit making industry in the city. The Windows Gallery displays a decorative art collection that spans from the twelfth century to the twentieth century.
Another popular attraction in Reading is the Beale Wildlife Park and Gardens. This wildlife park is located by the Thames River and has three sections; exotic and farm animals, gardens and a children’s area. Beale Wildlife Park and Gardens was started by Gilbert Beale in 1956 and was created to be used as his own private park. The park has been expanded throughout the years, and today has railway, wadding pools, sand pits and a petting zoo. One of the main features of the park is the Beale Center. The Beale Center is a venue that is used for craft shows, wedding receptions, art showcases and other special occasions. Located in the Beale Center is the Peacock Restaurant which offers many catering ideas and personalized menus that will fit any occasion. The Little Tikes Village is an area that is made just for the kids. It contains many play houses, sandpits, activity gyms and a play garage. This area also has kid driven vehicles that allow the children to scoot between the areas of the village. Other attractions in the park include the Education Room, Little Tikes Indoor Play Area, Thames Rivercruise, Deer Park, Mid Thames Model Boat Club, Fishing Areas and Play Areas. Wildlife in the park include Midas Tamarin, raccoons, Patagonian Cavy, marmoset, Black Tailed Prairie Dogs, meerkat, Red-necked Wallaby, British Giant & French Lop Rabbits, Berkshire Pigs and Dwarf Zebu.
The Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin is another popular attraction to visit in Reading. This site was originally a nunnery in the tenth century that was founded by the wife of King Edgar. But, the nunnery was destroyed in the eleventh century when the Danes sacked the city. In the eleventh century, the current church was founded by King Henry VIII. The church was severely damaged during the Protestant Reformation, but was extensively refurbished during the sixteenth and seventh century. After World War I, a war memorial named St. Edward’s Chapel was added to the church. A few yards away from the Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin is St. Mary’s of Castle Street.
Other attractions in Reading, Berkshire include Forbury Gardens, Basildon Park, Silchester, Mapledurham House, Madejski Stadium, Museum of English Rural Life, Reading Abbey Ruins, Marks and Spencer, The Oracle, UK Wolf Centre, Kennet & Avon Canal, Stratford Saye House, St. Laurence Church, Wellington Country Park, The Hexagon, St. Giles-in-Reading Church, St. William of York Church, St. James Church, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, The Reading Festival, Museum of Berkshire Aviation, Cole Museum of Zoology and Harris Botanic Gardens. Reading also has a number of pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels.