Published on January 22nd, 2015 | by Sim Hanfling0
5 more of Reading’s best hidden secrets
Sometimes it feels like the modern media has run out of ideas. Dredging up old, tired themes that have been covered a million times already, journalists hope that no one will notice their lack of originality. But rest assured, readers of Alt Reading will never get this kind of treatment. Oh, that’s for sure, not on our watch.
With this in mind, we’ll be repeating the themes addressed by previous articles regarding Reading’s “hidden secrets”.
I mean, we all know about popular spots like the Abbey Ruins or the Forbury Lion, but what about some of the town’s more hidden gems? Here’s a list of some more of our favourite lesser known historical spots, all of which can be found in the glorious RG. Once you’re done reading, scroll down for links to the rest of the articles in this series.
Memorial to King Henry I, Forbury Gardens
In the east corner of the Forbury Gardens lies a memorial to Henry Beauclerc or, as he is better known, King Henry I of England. Though the exact whereabouts of Henry’s body remain uncertain, this interesting memorial encapsulates Beauclerc’s inextricable connection to the town of Reading, seen in his founding of Reading Abbey in 1121.
As well as being King of England, Henry’s life is perhaps also noteworthy for giving the first speech material to Nigel Farage’s ancestors about bleeding Norman foreigners.
Queen Victoria’s Nose, Town Hall Square
Whilst battling through throngs of sweaty commuters outside the station, you’ve probably seen the statue of Queen Victoria in the Town Hall Square. Unveiled in July 1887, the statue of Victoria was erected in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. But what about her nose? It’s actually a replacement.
During a bombing raid over Reading in the Second World War, the original stone schnoz was blown off the statue by a sudden explosion. Once the dust had settled, the nose was later found amongst the rubble and is now housed inside the nearby Reading Museum. It was recently on show as part of the Museum’s excellent exhibition “Reading at War” and is definitely worth a look, not least to see the possible origin of the infamous “My Queen has no nose. How does she smell?” joke.
Former Site of the Dreadnought Pub, Thames Valley Park Drive
On the side of the river near Thames Valley Park lies the former site of the Dreadnought Pub. Opened in 1733 by Peter Breach, the Pub served customers from around the Mouth of the Kennet. It closed decades ago, but remnants of the signage from its former Dionysian years can still be seen on the building’s exterior.
The building was bought by the University of Reading, and was used as a Students Union bar until 1999. It is now being used by the University of Reading’s Rowing Club however, with planning position in place for it to be turned into a public venue once more, its future remains uncertain.
Grave of William Wimmera, Reading Old Cemetery
Wimmera was an Aboriginal Australian boy who was bought across the globe to Reading by missionaries in the mid nineteenth century. Upon his arrival, Wimmera soon fell ill and in 1852 tragically died aged 11 from tuberculosis and peritonitis.
The young boy’s guardian, the Reverend Septimus Lloyd Chase, incorrectly assumed that Wimmera was an orphan so decided that he should be buried in Reading, rather than his birthplace in Australia. As a result, Wimmera’s grave is one of the few known burial places of an Aboriginal Australian in a British cemetery.
The grave can be found in Plot 10, Row A, Section 44 of Reading Old Cemetery, and demonstrates just one of the many fascinating stories contained within the site’s walls.
Unknown Stone Foundations, the University of Reading Campus
Strolling through the woods near the entrance to the Harris Gardens on the University campus, one might miss these eerie stone structures in a clearing under the trees. Their origin is unclear. They may possibly be the remnants of old greenhouses used by the University’s horticultural team. Alternatively, they could be somehow related to the old nuclear bunker situated near the Wilderness. In the face of this uncertainty, all speculation is welcome.
Future cut-price student accommodation? Exclusive tax haven for the super rich? Portal to another dimension? You decide.