Visiting the old railroad station, Reading, England: elegant structure dating from 1860
Heritage of an historic railroad company
The old railroad station, in Reading, Berkshire, England, is situated adjacent to the new station complex. The building dates from 1860 and is a balanced and elegant structure, but on a scale which clearly shows how small it was, in comparison with the needs of the passengers. (I recall using the station approaching 30 years ago and my memory is of confined spaces.) A new station building — far larger than the old building — was opened in 1989, and clearly meets in a far better way the exigencies of the sheer volume of passengers (now 14 million per annum) which pass through the facility ... but in my humble opinion also, the new building lacks the grace of the old one.
The station now has 12 platforms; a fast service to London is maintained, some trains taking less than 30 minutes to arrive at London Paddington Station.
The former station building, now used as a licensed establishment for travellers, was executed in Bath stone. This material was a popular one in the erecting of local buildings in the mid-19th century (Reading's Royal Berkshire Hospital uses it, for example). Among its noted features is a centrally placed clock tower and neo-Classical-style windows at the main frontage of the building.
The original, sponsoring company for the station was the Great Western Railway (1). This almost legendary institution was substantially responsible for the great improvement in east-west communications in southern England in the Victorian era. The Great Western Railway opened the first Reading station in 1840, but growth in its usage necessitated the building of the 1860 structure.
Standing opposite the station buildings on the Forbury Road roundabout (i.e., British term for traffic carousel) is a statue of King Edward VII, depicted in his coronation robes (2). It dates from 1902, the year of his coronation; the work was the responsibility of sculptor George Edward Wade.
The former railroad station building is situated at Station Approach, Reading, Berkshire.
October 13, 2012
(1) A larger-than-life personality associated with the Great Western Railway was Isambard Kingdom Brunell (1806-1859), a hugely influential engineer whose innovations and achievements contributed to changing the face of travel. The letters 'GWR' were long a familiar sight on and around station buildings across southern England.
(2) King Edward VII was Queen Victoria's elder son and reigned between 1901 and 1910.
Also worth seeing
In Reading itself, other sites of architectural and historical interest include: the nearby Reading Abbey ruins, and Hospitium, the church of St. Lawrence-in-Reading, the Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens; the former Broad Street Independent Chapel; the University of Reading's Wantage Hall and St Patrick's Hall; and many others.
Silchester (distance: 18 kilometres) has been the site for excavation of Roman remains.
How to get there
United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Reading is 49 kilometres. A regular bus link exists between Heathrow Airport and Reading. A rail link exists between Reading and London Gatwick Airport. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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