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Eight construction projects that make Reading residents feel a sense of civic pride

By Steve Charnock
4 July 2022

What do you want out of the place in which you live? High quality local amenities? Decent schools? Reliable transport links? Perhaps you have to be commutable to London, near family or just close enough to a nice Italian restaurant or a good local pub...?

Another requirement you may have is a sense of community. Whether it be amongst people from a whole city, town, village or even just a street, a common bond over - and sense of pride about - one's surroundings can be very rewarding.

Standing proud in the distance as part of the landscape of a place, it may be surprising just how much civic pride a community feels about its more interesting and useful buildings. Let's look at some of the construction projects that elicit a sense of civic pride in those people living in Reading...

The Oracle

Before The Oracle Shopping Centre opened a few months before the turn of the Millennium, Reading was somewhat lacking from a retail perspective. Afterwards, it became something of a destination for Berkshire shoppers. Dozens of bars and restaurants and more than 80 retail units revolutionised the town centre.

Ask any Reading local and they'll tell you just how impressed and surprised they were when the in-town chopping complex first opened.

Reading Civic Centre

Closed back in 2014 and demolished a year later, the HQ of Reading politics, the Civic Centre, may not have wowed 20th century Redingensians. But back in its day? It was quite the architectural talking point.

The designers were the architect firm Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners, who were also responsible for coming up with the plans for the nearby Hexagon theatre and the old police station. It opened in 1978 and, in keeping with the style of the time, prioritised function over the visual, in something of a Brutalist manner.

Many of the building's former occupants have fond memories of the interestingly-laid out building, yet most were pleased to leave once a large amount of asbestos was discovered throughout.


While not strictly a building, the town's complicated road system 'The IDR' (The Inner Distribution Road') was still quite an ambitious construction project. It's a dual carriageway ring road which was designed and created in order to try and alleviate some of Reading's dreadful traffic problems. And, to a large extent, it has. Although, it has since become something of a traffic clog point in itself now.

The IDR has a long and hardly illustrious past. It took decades to complete, first opening in 1969, but not officially being completed until some 20 years later. As such, it has something of an ironic appreciation from locals. Visitors to the town who are unfamiliar with the system are usually less kind about the thing.

The Butts Centre/Broad St. Mall

Reading's second favourite shopping precinct is now known as The Broad Street Mall. When it opened way back in 1972, it was called the slightly less attractive 'Butts Centre', named after the adjacent St. Mary's Butts thoroughfare.

Another example of a building that's largely unappealing to the modern eye, on its unveiling, the Butts Centre was boundary pushing in its looks and represented a giant leap forward in the evolution of the town as a destination. Much like The Oracle would nearly three decades later.

The Hexagon

Another example of RG1 Brutalism, this seven-sided theatre and arts venue is as bold as they come. It was opened in the Year of Punk, 1977. With its own punk sensibilities. After all, how many new builds are built in the shape of an elongated hexagon?

Now the place is home to comedy, music, plays, pantomimes, musicals, opera and other such arts events. But back in the late 1970's and early 1980's it was also somewhere to enjoy live boxing and - specifically - snooker.

A little ugly and brown on the outside, it's worth noting that it's a lot nicer inside and looks much better in the winter when it's lit up.

Reading Bridge

There are two main bridges in the town which span the Thames, connecting Reading with its well-regarded and popular northern suburb Caversham. The first of which is the often traffic-gridlocked Caversham Bridge. The tailbacks of which make it very unpopular with drivers in the Berkshire town. The second bridge is the far easier to drive over, Reading Bridge.

This historic spandrel arch structure was opened up in 1923, making it almost a century old. Supporting two footways and a three-lane highway, Reading Bridge provides a vital transport link to, carrying around 24,000 vehicles each and every day.

The new train station

20 million rail passengers use Reading train station a year, making it easily one the busiest rail hubs in the UK. In 2008, a £400m project to expand the station was approved, with the work due to be finished in 2015. In the end, the project was finished a whole year early. However, costs soared to some £897m.

Unlike a lot of modern train station redevelopments, Reading's new station is clearly laid out, works well and is actually quite aesthetically pleasing. Okay, so it cost nearly £1bn. But it's good.

The Madejski Stadium

Few non-Reading FC fans will care too much about the stadium of the town's largest football club. Yet while it's not the most popular with away supporters (it's far too far away from the train station), the stadium itself is impressive. At least, it was when it first opened.

Out-of-town 'bowl-style' stadia are fairly commonplace now but when the the stadium (now called 'The Select Car Leasing Stadium') was first opened back in 1998, it was fairly revolutionary. £50m invested and a couple of spells in the Premier League soon created a boom time for The Royals. Which, even to non-football fans, instilled more than a little town pride in everyone.

READ MORE: How The Oracle transformed retail in Reading

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