There are fun and informative walking tours around our town in this little book for children of all ages.
Author Kerry Renshaw writes:
One of the silver linings of lockdown is that it has got families exercising together. Currently, families who live together can exercise together, and grandparents can join in if they are part of a support bubble. Even if not, a grandparent can exercise with one grandchild. Town walks are a great alternative to country hikes, especially at muddy times. The great thing about a guided walk around town is that children (and adults!) can be connected to Reading’s intriguing local history. There are so many clues in our statues, plaques and buildings that give us glimpses into Reading’s past. The book asks children to spot the history they will find on Reading’s streets and answer questions. There’s a real sense of achievement in tracking down things that others miss.
What happened to Queen Victoria’s finger? Is she turning her back on the town? Why are there cartwheeling German boys in Reading? Why did loads of steamrollers crowd onto Reading Bridge? What battles were fought in Reading – yes, even in Broad Street! Which of our churches was regularly visited by Good Queen Bess? Which Norman knights fought a duel by the Thames? Who was the unlucky young man was killed by a whirlwind? These and many other questions are waiting to be solved.
The book has loads of excellent photographs of Reading past and present. And there are longer pieces on the Abbey, the “three B’s”, the bridges, and many other shorter, fascinating tales.
Reading Detectives is by Kerry Renshaw and Electra Colios. You can buy a copy here, or via local or online booksellers.
I had thought that I was familiar with Reading’s town
centre. However, one day as I was passing Harris Arcade on Friar Street I was
surprised by a plaque that I had never seen before. It wasn’t new; it had been
in the same place for over a hundred years! I read: This house was the
birthplace of Professor Goldwin Smith DCL, born August 13, 1823, died at
Toronto June 7, 1910. A second surprise… not just a plaque I had never seen
but a person I had never heard of.
This Reading-born man must have been well known for a plaque
to be erected in his memory. This unexpected encounter with an unknown person
piqued my interest. I had to find out who Professor Goldwin Smith was and what
had made him famous enough that when he died in Toronto, his contemporaries in
Reading wanted to honour him. My first discovery was that I had read a brief
account of his life a long time ago in Some Worthies of Reading by J.J.
Cooper and had forgotten. I then discovered a biography by Elisabeth Wallace,
written in 1957, which was an engrossing read. I tracked occurrences in his
life through the newspapers, including the striking assessment in his obituary
in the Reading Observer that he was ‘one of the most famous men that
Reading has ever produced’. By this time, I had begun to understand why and to
agree with that sentiment.
Having learned so much about Goldwin Smith, I inevitably brought him into my conversations, usually with the opening ‘have you ever heard of…’ No one I spoke to had heard of him, but many were interested to know more because of his local connection. That led me to the thought of writing about Goldwin Smith, the plaque and why Reading people had wanted to commemorate him. Thus my book, Signs of the Times, was born, with twenty of Reading’s memorials as starting points to look at why that memorial is there, what or who it commemorates, and what was the story behind the setting up of the memorial itself – stories that our forebears thought important enough to fix into local memory.
Find out more about Signs of the Times – available to buy now!