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Visiting the Great Hall, Reading University, Reading, England: gracious, red brick building dating from 1905

Updated on September 27, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Great Hall, Reading University
Great Hall, Reading University | Source
Great Hall, Reading University
Great Hall, Reading University | Source
George Goschen, 1st Viscount Goschen (1831 – 1907)
George Goschen, 1st Viscount Goschen (1831 – 1907) | Source
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) | Source
Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom
Map location of Berkshire, United Kingdom | Source

Sedateness in red brick and Portland stone

The Great Hall of Reading University, Reading, Berkshire, England, was built in 1905. Its materials include red brick, with Portland stone. Features include corner towers with cupolas, and pediments over windows and doorways.

The move of the College to the London Road site from the original Valpy Street site was overseen by Principal W M Childs, and completed in the 1906/07 session. In real estate terms at least, the building of the Great Hall was thus the most visible evidence of the consolidation of this institution, which achieved University status in 1926.

I recall being in this fine building when it was being used for a degree congregation and as a concert hall also; Reading was one of the universities at which I studied. In this connection, here is a somewhat amusing anecdote: as a student many years ago, I had invited some friends to a concert at which, among other items, a song to music by Grieg was being performed. The soloist somewhat coyly gave an introduction, saying that she had been planning to tell the audience about the Norwegian composer's homeland, with its fjords and wide open spaces, but, then, in reference to the poor attendance at the concert, she added, 'I see that we have those here today'. Certainly, the interior of the building is somewhat cavernous.

The Great Hall's pipe organ was installed in 1911. Reading University has a strong musical tradition. It has sponsored organ scholars at St George's Chapel, Windsor. Among well-known musical figures associated with the University and previously, the University College, have been Sir Adrian Boult, who twice conducted the University orchestra in the Great Hall, and Gustav Holst, who taught music at the then University College after writing The Planets .

The original College, from which the University of Reading emerged, was founded by Christ Church, Oxford in the late 19th century; on a wall of the Great Hall a stone bears an inscription stating that the Rt. Hon. Viscount Goschen, as Chancellor of Oxford University, laid the stone on June 7, 1905.

Permission from the London Road site's porter's lodge in order to view the Great Hall may be necessary.

September 27, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Reading itself, at the London Road site of Reading University, the War Memorial Tower and the Old Library are of architectural interest. as are Wantage Hall and St Patrick's Hall, and Foxhill; Reading Abbey ruins include the Hospitium, formerly housing the 19th century College from which Reading University later developed.

Oxford (distance: 43 kilometres) with its wealth of sites of historical and architectural interest, is easily accessible from Reading


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. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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