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Reading

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"READING, comprises the parishes of St. Mary, St. Lawrence, and St. Giles, it is a market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, and county town, county Berks, locally in the hundred of Reading, but exercising separate jurisdiction, 39 miles S.W. of London by road, and 36 3/4 by the Great Western railway, on which it is a principal station. There are also branch lines of the Great Western to Hungerford and Basingstoke, and of the South-Eastern to Reigate, by which last the main lines of the Great Western, South-Western, and South-Eastern are connected. There is also water communication with most of the chief ports of England by means of the Kennet and Avon canal and the river Kennet, which last is navigable from Reading for vessels of 120 tons burden, and has commodious wharves on its banks." (more...)

From The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland(1868). Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003.

Other descriptions can be found from other periods in various trade directories covering Berkshire from the early 19th century onwards, from Berkshire FHS, and from A Vision of Britain Through Time.

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Archives & Libraries

In addition to those listed on the Berkshire home page, see the Research Wiki from Family Search (the Church of Latter-day Saints (Genealogical Society of Utah))

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Churches

There are more than 30 churches identified in this place. Please click here for a complete list.
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Church History

Further information about some of the churches can be found below:

  • Church of England:  
    • Greyfriars Church is former Franciscan friary, the oldest Franciscan church still in use in the UK and a Grade I listed building. Built in 1311, most complete example of Franciscan architecture in Britain and oldest still being used for worship. Restored in 1863.
    • The Holy Trinity, Reading.  See History of Holy Trinity Church, Reading, c1910?, available from Reading Central Library.  Contains many unusual and beautiful furnishings, including the Pugin screen and an alter set by Martin Travers from Nashdown Abbey.
    • St Stephen's building was demolished and St John's building has been taken over by the Polish RC Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1981.  The residual congregations combined to form St. John & St. Stephen in a new building.  
    • St Giles.  
      • Originally built in 12C during the English Civil War.  St Giles tower was garrisoned for the King and the upper part was destroyed in 1643. The fabric was restored at the end of hostilities.
      • The Parish of S. Giles-in-Reading by Leslie Harman, 1946, is a history of the church, with list of  vicars from c 1190 to 1934 and churchwardens 1518 to 1942.  Available from Berkshire FHS
      • For the history of the split within St Giles to form the Castle Street Chapel (later St Mary's Episcopal), see The History of the Congregational Churches in Berks, etc.  
    • St Lawrence, see A History of the Municipal Church of St. Lawrence, Reading, 1883 by Charles Kerry is also available from Berkshire FHS.  
  • Methodist
    • Whitley Hall Methodist Church (previously Spring Gardens Mission chapel until 1906), Whitley Rd closed c1997 (now a Hindu Temple) and their records are held by the BRO.  For a history of the church, see The Top of Whitley by Daphne Barnes-Phillips, ISBN 1-897715-01-3, available at Reading Central Library.  
    • Oxford Rd Methodist Church: closed in 1996 (buildings bought by Church of God Worldwide Mission?).  
    • Wesley Methodist Church, Queens Rd.
  • Congregational: For early history (and some pictures), see The History of the Congregational Churches in Berks, etc.
    • Broad Street Chapel - founded as an Independent Chapel in 1707 with new frontage in 1892, then Congregational and finally URC, now closed and in 1995 became a bookshop.  See booklet Broad Street Chapel, Reading, 1662-1912 by Walter John Brain, available from Reading Central Library.  Records are held by the BRO (ref. D/EBA), see Vol 69, 2014 page 4 of the Berkshire Echo.
    • Trinity Church, now closed, used to stand at the corner of Sidmouth Street and Queen's Road. It was demolished to make way for a hall of Residence in c1980.
    • Hosier Street Congregational Methodist Chapel - What God hath wrought: a brief history of Hosier Street Congregational Methodist Chapel, Reading, 1854-1954, available at Reading Central Library.  
    • Castle Street Congregational Church - formed in 1836 when St Mary's Church, Castle Street, Reading  reverted to the Church of England. Those members who wished to remain independent rented rooms in Bridge Street, and in 1837 built a Congregational Chapel in Castle Street, almost opposite their former church.  In 1886, the church amalgamated with the Augustine Church in Friar Street.  The church declined in the 1950s, and closed in 1956. The proceeds of the sale of the building, and some of the church contents, were given to a new church to be built on the Southcote estate (later Grange Free Church).
    • London St Chapel (previously Salem chapel, Independent Chapel), started in 1808 at Salem Court, Minster St, moved in 1820 to London St, dissolved 1827.  Some birth registers at the TNA
    • Ebenezer Chapel, Oxford Road, c1820 to c1830.
    • Augustine Chapel, Friar St, 1869 to c1887.
    • Reading Park United Reformed (formerly Congregational) Church: archive 1907-2008 is held by the BRO (D/N53). 
    • St Paul’s Presbyterian (later United Reformed) Church, Reading, archive 1897-2000 is held by the BRO (D/N43). The Church was built at the expense of local businessman William McIlroy, and closed in 2000.
  • Reading cemeteries:  Reading Borough Council has records of burials dating back to the mid 1840s and cremation records dating back to 1932. If you're searching for a record of someone who died in Reading or the surrounding areas, they may have a record of when and where they were either cremated or buried. 
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Church Records

  • Parish registers for Reading St Mary 1538 - 1812 (a digital version of the original books publish in 1891-92 containing transcriptions of the original registers) are available on CD from the Berkshire FHS shop
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Description & Travel

You can see pictures of Reading which are provided by:

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Gazetteers

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Historical Geography

  • Reading was in the hundred of Reading

You can see the administrative areas in which Reading has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.

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History

  • Reading Records: Diary of the Corporation in 3 volumes covering 1431 to 1640, published 1892 - 1896, available from Berkshire FHS
  • Reading Borough Council's archived records are held by the BRO, including: the accounts and other financial records of Reading borough, 1835-1975, and the Local Board of Health, 1850-1891 (R/FB). They include, as well as the main series of general accounts, rent accounts of borough property, naming the tenants, 1835-1853, 1886-1891; accounts of Reading Tramways, 1901-1947, Reading Gas Company, 1904-1949; and staff superannuation registers, 1924-1986.  The listed the accounts of Reading and Earley School Boards, 1871-1903 (R/FE1), and the borough Education Committee, 1903-1945, including registers of teachers, 1903-1939 (R/FE2). There are also accounts for some individual Reading schools, 1872-1910 (R/FE3).  Accounts of the Reading Improvement Commissioners, 1826-1846 (R/AS). Additional chamberlains’ accounts, 1822-1835 (R/FA3). Quit rentals (money owed by property owners to the Corporation under the terms of the borough charter), 1611-1612, 1753-1801 (R/FA11). Fee farm accounts (money paid annually by the Corporation  to the Crown), 1567-1640 (R/FA12). Constables’ accounts, 1645-1646 (R/FA13).  Additional items relating to the borough’s quarter sessions court, 1603-1777 (R/JQ). A volume of poor law settlement examinations, 1768-1777.  

  • Mayors of Reading

  • Abbots of Reading.  

  • Coley Park and Beyond describes the early days of Coley Park estate (home of the Vachell Family 1309 to 1727) and some of the surrounding older Coley areas in Reading.
  • Businesses - see Business and Commerce
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Maps

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SU710730 (Lat/Lon: 51.451542, -0.979625), Reading which are provided by:

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Poor Houses, Poor Law

Reading was in the Reading Union.  For more information, see Poorhouses.