1. Reading Museum
The Reading Museum, situated In the neo-Gothic Town Hall, provides insight into the town’s history – dating back to its Saxon Settlement days, traversing through the Medieval abbey and industrialization period, and culminating in the present-day 21st century.
The exhibition also includes a display for the neighboring Roman settlement known as Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester). This exhibit features several items, including a bronze eagle, which was found in 1866 and is believed to have been cast in the 1st or 2nd century. Additionally, the exhibition showcases excavated pieces from Reading Abbey and the Bayeux Tapestry, which is the only copy of the tapestry in the country, depicting the Norman invasion of Britain.
In the Windows Gallery, one can find works of art created by renowned artists such as Jacob Epstein and Auguste Rodin. The Huntley & Palmers Gallery, on the other hand, showcases the history of the biscuit-making industry that was a driving force for the economy of Reading during Victorian times. If you need a place to stay during your exploration of Reading, check out Reading serviced rooms.
2. Forbury Gardens
Forbury Gardens, a well-maintained public park, is located a few blocks east of the railway station in Reading. The park sits on the periphery of the historic Reading Abbey, which will be discussed at a later time.
Following the dissolution of the abbey during the 16th century, the area was left unoccupied and later repurposed as gun emplacements during the English Civil War. Additionally, the site was also utilized for military drills throughout the Napoleonic Wars.
In the mid-19th century, the park was opened to the public, and its central monument, the Maiwand Lion, was constructed in 1886 to honor those who lost their lives in the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880, specifically commemorating the 66th Berkshire Regiment. The park features a charming bandstand and spacious lawns that are popular with local office workers during sunny lunch breaks.
3. Abbey Ruins
The remains of Reading Abbey, which were established by Henry I in 1121, can be found On the southeast boundary of Forbury Gardens. Despite the merging with more contemporary architecture, the abbey’s ruins serve as a tangible symbol of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538, where the last abbot Hugh Cook Faringdon was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered alongside other monasteries across Britain and Ireland.
Although the structure has not been in use for nearly 500 years, it remains of significant historical value and has been designated as a Grade site. Visitors are permitted to explore the remains of the former chapter house.
The Hospitium, which was originally a dormitory for pilgrims, still remains intact to this day and has been transformed into a children’s nursery. Another historically significant building is the Gothic abbey gateway that occupied Abbey Square and was used as a school attended by the renowned Jane Austen. The building underwent a restoration process by George Gilbert Scott in 1861.
4. Basildon Park
Located in the Chiltern Hills, not far from Reading, Basildon Park is an impressive country house crafted in the Palladian style by John Carr in the late 18th century. Built from beautiful honey-colored Bath stone, the house served as a prisoner of war camp during World War II and was in a state of disrepair in the 1950s, almost facing destruction, until Lord and Lady Iliffe took it under their wing and gave it a complete restoration.
Today, the National Trust takes care of the property, and it is in its best condition yet.
Visitors with background knowledge of restoration work can explore and gain insight into the Iliffes’ search for suitable fittings from different parts of the country.
The Staircase Hall, Octagon Drawing Room, and Dining Room all offer a pleasant atmosphere, and visitors are welcome to enjoy a cup of tea by the inviting kitchen fire.
Silchester is accessible to the general public at no cost and is located approximately ten miles to the southwest of Reading. The location is under the care of English Heritage.
The ancient Roman urban settlement was constructed during the end of the first century, replacing a pre-existing Iron Age settlement, but was eventually deserted between the 5th and 7th centuries.