Exploring Reading before leaving the UK

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December 21st 2018
Published: December 23rd 2018
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I decided to book a couple of nights in Reading because we hadn't been there before and it wasn't too far from Heathrow from where we were to fly to Copenhagen.

Well I can't really say that I very impressed with what we saw of the town but no doubt the rain didn't help the enjoyment of the place. We did only have one full day there, and for at least half of the day the rain was pelting down. But for us the best thing about Reading was the Reading Musem and the ruins of Reading Abbey, both of which we explored. Because of its Royal patronage, the abbey was one of the pilgrimage centres of medieval England and one of its richest and most important religious buildings.

The museum had a great Story of Reading Gallery which told the story of the town's long history since its origins in the 6th century. It included details of Reading Abbey which was established by King Henry 1 in 1121; the impact of the English Civil war and events leading up to its closure in 1539. There were also objects there from Reading Goal where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned from 1895 to 1897.

Another fantastic area was the Bayeux Gallery which contained a 70 metre long faithful replica of the Bayeux Tapestry made by 35 skilled Victorian embroiderers in 1885. Having myself seen the original Bayeux Tapestry - which depicts the events leading up, and includes, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 - the replica is just amazing. Elizabeth Wardle, having seen the original herself, decided that England should have a copy and, under her supervision, together with members of the Leek Embroidery Society in just over a year they finished the replica. A mammoth achievement, it's fantastic that we can now see it for ourselves. There were some primary school pupils there while I was viewing the tapestry which was nice to see, and to listen to the teachers explaining the story all about it to them.

While we didn't see everything the museum had to offer, we did have a look at the Huntley & Palmers Gallery which included quite a few newsreels about the company plus an historic film; the earliest surviving film of a British factory. Huntley & Palmers were Reading's most famous biscuit makers - once the mainstay of the Reading economy - who exported their biscuits around the world. There were over 300 decorated biscuit tins amongst the exhibits but I think the old film and newsreels were the most interesting.

I managed to get soaking wet going to see the ruins of Reading Abbey but it was worth it. One of the nearby church buildings had been turned into a school at which Jane Austen had been a pupil. So, despite the rain there were many elements of Reading which were worth the effort before we caught an early morning bus to Heathrow the following day.

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