Out and About
The first written mention of a settlement in Reading was in January 871 with the battle of Reading fought between the Danes, King Ethelred and his brother Alfred the Great. Reading was actually founded around the 6th century by Saxon people who had travelled up the Rivers Thames and Kennet finding it a suitable place to settle.
The Domesday Book records Reading as being a typical small town until founding of the Abbey in 1121 which changed the fortunes of the town and with the Wool Trade, made the town extremely prosperous. The Abbey was founded by Henry I who is buried within the Abbey grounds. It was however predominantly destroyed in 1538 during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.
The last abbot, Hugh Cook Faringdon, was subsequently tried and convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the Abbey Church. In 1525, Reading was the largest town in Berkshire and by 1611 the population was over 5000 people having become prosperous from its trade in cloth. In 1628 The Oracle was one of the earliest workhouses built in the country.
It is from The Oracle that the new shopping centre takes its name. From 1996-1998, a team of archaeologists worked on excavating the site of The Oracle development prior to the building of the new shopping centre. The Oracle Riverside area, with its restaurants and bars, spans the Brewery Gut, a particularly narrow stretch of the River Kennet. The layout allows space for outdoor tables, and there is granite stadium-style seating and a sail-like canopy. Two bridges have been installed spanning the Kennet, Cooks Bridge, a straight footbridge which links the Riverside Car Park to the shops and restaurants.