Reading. County town of Berkshire, situated where the river Kennet joins the Thames. A small borough by 1086, it grew partly thanks to Henry I's foundation of a major Cluniac abbey (1121), where he was buried. The abbey dominated the town until the dissolution (1539), and not until 1542 did Reading become an autonomous borough. From the 14th to the 17th cents. it flourished through cloth-making: it was temporarily the eleventh wealthiest English town under Henry VIII, and Archbishop Laud was the son of a Reading clothier. The town suffered badly in the Civil War; was only of modest importance in the 18th cent.; but revived as an industrial town in the 19th (‘Biscuitopolis’).
David M. Palliser
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