Today Reading also serves a huge area of the Thames Valley
as a retail hub and is home to the University of Reading.
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 19th century saw the development of Reading’s brewing, baking and
seed growing businesses. In 1841 The Great Western Railway arrived, followed by
the South Eastern Railway in 1849 and the London and South Western Railway in
The town has been famous for the ‘three Bs’ of Beer
(Simonds' Brewery), Bulbs (Suttons Seeds), and Biscuits (Huntley and Palmers).
The London Irish rugby union team and Reading Football Club
are both based in Reading, with the yearly Reading Half Marathon attracting over
15,000 competing runners.
Every year since 1971 Reading hosts the Reading Festival,
one of England's biggest music festivals. Every August bank holiday weekend the
festival takes place. Originally held in 1994, the Reading Beer Festival has
now developed to be one of the biggest beer festivals in the UK. It is held at
King's Meadow for the four days immediately preceding the May Day bank holiday
Reading theatre venues include The Hexagon and 21 South
Street. Amateur theatre venues in Reading include Progress Theatre.
Reading has 22 Grade II*, 5 Grade I and 853 Grade II listed
buildings whilst the Blade, a fourteen-storey building completed in 2009, is
128m (420 ft) tall and can be seen from the surrounding areas.
There are over 100 playgrounds and parks in Reading,
including 5 miles of riverside paths. The largest public park in Reading is
Prospect Park. Forbury Gardens is a
public park in the town centre constructed and located on the outer court of
Reading Abbey. The 328 officers of the Royal Berkshire Regiment who died in the
Battle of Maiwand in 1880 during the Afghan campaign are commemorated by the
Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens.
The Reading Borough Public Library service dates back to
1877. Opened in 1883, the Museum of Reading resided in the town's civic
buildings. It comprises of galleries detailing Reading's history, an art
collection, the Bayeux Tapestry, and galleries relating to Huntley and Palmers.
The Cole Museum of Zoology, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and the Harris
Botanic Gardens all reside on the Whiteknights Campus at Reading University.
The Museum of Berkshire Aviation, in the suburb of Woodley has a collection of
aircraft and other artefacts regarding the aircraft business in the town.