Reading is in the county of Berkshire in the south east of England. Reading has served as the county town since 1867 and was founded in the eighth century. Reading began life as a Saxon settlement and was originally called Reada Ingas, which means the people of Reada.
Reada was a Saxon leader who settled in the area with his tribe in the 6th century. Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 where he moved with his family and was later buried there in December 1135.
The Abbey was opened by St. Thomas A'Becket. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was hacked to pieces in his Cathedral because he wouldn't do what the King wanted.
Reading prospered in the middle ages because it was on the main road between London and the West of England. There were many fullers in Reading as well as dyers, weavers, and tailors. The leather industry was one of the largest trades in Reading were the Leather was tanned then was used to make shoes, hats, bottles and saddles.
There were also many vintners (wine merchants) as the upper class mainly drank wine. The Sun Inn in Castle Street is the most fascinating of Reading's old pubs. It has a Norman archway which once led to a large underground hall.
There were 3 parishes in the town, St Marys, St Giles and St Laurence's. In the middle Ages each parish had to have butts where all men practiced archery.
By the end of the 16th century Reading was home to over 3,000 people during the medieval period and Tudor times.
Reading also started to grow rich on its trade in cloth which was the main source of income for the economy, however the taxes levied on the town by the garrison badly damaged its cloth trade, and it did not recover.
Reading, like other towns, suffered outbreaks of plague in the 16th and 17th century. From 1646 the town council set aside houses where people suffering from the plague could be quarantined.
The 18th century saw the beginning of a major iron works in the town and the growth of the brewing trade for which Reading was to become famous.
The opening of the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1810 made it possible to go by barge from Reading to the Bristol Channel. This brought not only better transport but opened opportunities for trade and tourism. Reading Railway Station opened on the 30th March 1840. It was a temporary western terminus of the original line of the Great Western Railway.
In the 19th century the town also made ‘Reading Sauce', described as a sharp sauce flavored with onions, spices, and herbs, very like Worcestershire Sauce. During World War II Reading was considered a 'safe' town (one unlikely to be bombed). Therefore many children from London were evacuated to Reading early in the war. But it was not entirely safe. In an air raid on 10 February 1941 41 people were killed and 153 were injured.
The local shopping centre, The Oracle, built in 1999, is not named after the US database company but rather after the 17th century workhouse founded by John Kendrick which previously occupied the site. The original ‘Oracle' gates can be seen in the Museum of Reading in the town hall and still stands proud today.
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