A Brief History of Reading

Founded by the Saxons in 800 AD, Reading grew up in what was an ideal location. Its proximity to the Thames and the Kennet rivers gave it excellent transport links for its market to develop, meaning that it could supply the Thames Valley and London, which lies just 41 miles away to the east.

It was originally called Reada Ingas, which means ‘people of Reada’. Reada was a tribal Saxon leader who settled in the area. The area suffered invasion and capture over the years by both the Vikings and the Normans, and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, it still only numbered some 600 residents. But by the Middle Ages, Reading had begun to prosper in earnest. It was a popular stopping off place on the journey from London to Bristol, which took travellers several days to complete. At this time, the local economy was based around sheep farming and wool and cloth making.

Over the next two hundred years, Reading’s economy began to change. Wool making declined and was replaced by manufacturing concerns such as pin, wire and nail making. During the Civil War in the 17th century, the town was occupied by both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians at different times, and like many other towns it suffered greatly during various outbreaks of the plague.

As the Industrial Revolution set in, large parts of the town were rebuilt in a grander and more elegant style. The cloth industry had failed by this time, but large businesses were flourishing, such as Simonds’ Brewery, the corn and seed supplier Suttons and the biscuit factory of Huntley and Palmer. This trio of employers was so important to Reading that it became known as the town of three Bs: beer, bulbs and biscuits!

Yet nothing stays the same, and by the later 20th century, two of these major employers had shut their doors for good and the brewery had moved out towards the edge of the town. However, high London rents and rates were encouraging many companies to leave the capital and Reading was conveniently close to benefit from the migration. Nowadays, Reading is one of Southern England’s most important commercial areas, containing headquarters of British companies along with the UK offices of various foreign multinationals. In a twist to its old tag, it’s now referred to as the town of three Is: insurance, IT and investment.

Some of the best known of these businesses, including Wrigleys and Vodafone, have located within Arlington Business Park. Set in attractively landscaped grounds, the park is situated close to junction 12 of the M4 and provides high quality offices in Reading, which surround a three-acre lake.

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