Reading’s hidden history you probably walk past every day without spotting

Reading's hidden history you probably walk past every day without spotting

The town has plenty of fascinating things scattered around

Talbot House in Castle Street, Reading
The dog at Talbot House, Castle Street (Image: BerkshireLive)

If you walk around Reading between 8am and 9am, there are a lot of people around.

It’s fair to say that not all of them are taking in their surroundings.

The intention is to get to work.

Noise cancelling headphones and staring at phones feature heavily.

It’s a shame, because there is plenty of hidden history and lovely old architecture around Reading town centre if you know where to look.

You might even find some fascinating statues and history.

We’re not talking about prominent things here like the Maiwand Lion, or Reading Abbey.

It’s hard not to spot them.

We’re looking more at the smaller things, you may not notice if you’re focusing on the day ahead.

Some are historical, some are rather beautiful, and some are not, but here are some are rather curious.

Here are some of the hidden histories in plain sight, thanks to Reading Civic Society for its help with our research.

The water fountain at St Laurence’s Church, Friar Street

St Laurence's Church water fountain in Reading town centre
St Laurence’s Church water fountain in Reading town centre (Image: BerkshireLive)

St Laurence’s Church itself is not something you’ll fail to spot.

It’s very big, very grand and rather prominent at the end of Friar Street.

What you might not see is its rather splendid water fountain.

It’s around the corner from the main entrance in Market Street.

It has its own listing.

If you look closely it has the main fountain and two bowls below.

These were for dogs to have a drink from.

Inscription on the High Bridge, Duke Street

High Bridge in Reading
The High Bridge in Reading (Image: BerkshireLive)

The bridge over the River Kennet in Duke Street is called the High Bridge.

It has this inscription on it, which is very easy to miss as it’s quite faded.

You can’t make all of it out, but what remains says “this bridge” and “rebuilt”.

We’d guess the original inscription was the full details of the Grade II listed bridge being rebuilt at some point in its history.

It was rebuilt and replaced in 1788, so the inscription might date back to then.

The Girl and Swan statue, Kings Road

girl and swan statue
The girl and swan statue (Image: BerkshireLive)

This is something that could easily pass you by.

It’s above eye-level and is on the side of an apart-hotel in King’s Road.

The Girl and Swan statue is the work of English sculptor Lorne McKean.

The bronze statue depicts a young girl reach skywards towards a flying swan.

The new Reading Station

The indentation at Reading Station
The indentation at Reading Station (Image: BerkshireLive)

We wonder how many people who use Reading Station every day hadn’t spotted this subtle indentation of the word “Reading” in the new frontage?

Whatever these things are in the Hosier Street area

strange concrete structures
The strange concrete structures in Reading (Image: BerkshireLive)

Apparently these strange concrete structures near the back of the Broad Street Mall car park used to be lights.

Now, they just sit there, waiting for Reading Borough Council’s grand plan to knock down the whole area.

This curious statue in Market Place

The Soane Monument in Reading
The Soane Monument in Reading (Image: BerkshireLive)

This statue in Market Place has the grand name of the Simeon Obelisk or the Soane Monument.

It’s quite big, but actually easily missed due to the food markets going on in the area.

Edward Simeon was a very rich city trader.

His brother John was MP for the town.

However, in 1802 John lost his seat.

In an effort to win back his voters, the family embarked on the tried and test policy of buying nice things, one of which was the statue.

Local architect Sir John Soane was the designer.

It was somewhat controversial.

An unknown person is quoted on the statue’s Wikipedia page as describing it as a  paltry gew-gaw thing without use, or name.

Simeon was accused of using it to promote himself, rather than doing anything of benefit to the public.

He did win his seat back in 1806, so maybe it worked.

This architecture in Station Road

Architecture in Station Road, Reading
Architecture in Station Road, Reading

Reading town centre is full of fascinating architecture sandwiched between unremarkable modern buildings.

Take a look at this one in Station Road. It’s fantastic.

This plaque on The Oracle

The plaque on The Oracle shopping centre in Reading
The plaque on The Oracle (Image: BerkshireLive)

To notice this requires some significant neck-craning.

This is on the side of The Oracle shopping centre off the IDR.

It’s opposite the impossible not to notice Black History Mural on the old Central Club.

It says: “Reading Tramways Corporation Tramway Station”.

A much more visible stone plaque below explains the plaque was part of the old Tramways Depot in Reading.

It was built in 1903 and then demolished when the shopping centre was built in 1998.

The Cartwheeling Boys, Hosier Street area

Cartwheeling Boys statue
The Cartwheeling Boys statue

This is another thing that’s easily missed.

This is largely because it’s in a part of town where not many people go.

It’s an interesting statue though, and worth a trip out to the area behind the Broad Street Mall off Hosier Street.

It was commissioned to mark the 30 year anniversary of Reading’s twinning with the German town of Dusseldorf in 1947.

You’d hope it gets moved to a more prominent place once the area is revamped.

It’s a shame you can’t take a seat to admire it, but you can’t have everything.

The Archers of St Mary’s Butts

Artwork on lampost
The archers of St Mary’s Butts (Image: BerkshireLive)

This is a small piece of artwork which livens up the area near the bus stops in St Mary’s Butts.

The artwork was introduced during Reading’s Year of Culture in 2016.

It was from an art project involving young offenders.

The archers are on one side of the road and their target is on the other, by Reading Minster.

Hundreds of years ago, the area was used for archery practice.

This building in Broad Street

The building which houses Pret-a-Manger in Broadstreet, Reading
The building which houses Pret-a-Manger (Image: BerkshireLive)

Next time you head for a Pret, just take a look at the magnificent building it’s housed in.

This is in Broad Street.

The yellow building, Cross Street

Architecture in Cross Street, Reading
Architecture in Cross Street, Reading (Image: BerkshireLive)

We noticed this very yellow building in Cross Street.

It rather sticks out once you notice it.

The building with the pillars, Castle Street

St Mary's Church, Reading
St Mary’s Church, Reading (Image: BerkshireLive)

In fairness, this is a prominent building, but also the sort of place you’d quickly walk past without looking at it.

It’s actually a very grand building with Roman-style pillars.

For those wondering, it’s a church.

St Mary’s Church in fact.

It’s looked that way since the 1840s.

More of its history can be found here.

The Lady Somerset Stone, Yates’, Friar Street

The long-running bar in Friar Street has had its troubles recently.

But it contains a piece of hidden history.

Above one of its windows is the face of Lady Henry Somerset.

This plaque, Sackville Street

The Martin Hope Sutton Memorial Hall in Reading
The Martin Hope Sutton Memorial Hall (Image: BerkshireLive)

Another one that requires a bit of neck-craning, this is in Sackville Street.

It’s the Martin Hope Sutton Memorial Hall, and is part of Greyfriars Church.

Martin Hope Sutton, was of course one of the famous Suttons Seeds dynasty in Reading.

This dog, Castle Street

Talbot House in Castle Street, Reading
The dog at Talbot House, Castle Street (Image: BerkshireLive)

The dog sits atop Talbot House in Castle Street.

It is a Grade II listed building directly opposite Reading Police Station.

The old Corn Exhange, Market Place

The old Corn Exchange building in Reading
The old Corn Exhange building in Market Place (Image: BerkshireLive)

This is opposite the Simeon Obelisk in Market Place.

The Corn Exchange was demolition in 1964 to make way for a more modern development.

This, we presume, was part of the now derelict Bristol and West Arcade, which itself will eventually be demolished.

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