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Thursday Study Tours

13 June: Tours start from 12:45 to 17:00

Registration & Tour departure - Thursday

12:15 – 17:00: Tour start default location:
The Ibis Reading Centre
25a Friar Street, Reading, RG1 1DP


Tours start and end at the Ibis Reading Centre unless otherwise indicated. The last tour, at 17.00, ends at the venue for the 18.30 evening reception, the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), at 18.15. Please see individual tours for variations.

Please see individual tours for start and finish venues.

Please note the following:

  • All times are approximate but start times cannot be delayed for late arrivals
  • Some tours involve substantial walking in urban areas: please bring suitable sturdy shoes and wet weather gear
  • All tours are subject to change.
  • Those joining later or shorter tours, and with time to spare, are strongly encouraged to explore the rich heritage of Reading and its environs, informed by suitable references and resources including those on our website
  • Accessibility: Most tours are in the public realm and access is as varied as is typical in urban environments.
  • The reception at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), at 18.30, and is drinks only. Formalities end by 20.00 – with the reception closing at 8.30, and delegates are encouraged to make dining arrangements around these times that best suit their tours, travel and personal arrangements.

Depart: 12:45 (after mandatory Health & Safety briefing from 12.35)
Return: 15:00

Led by local tour guide Terry Dixon, this walking tour will cover the 5’B’s - including Biscuits, Beer & Bulbs and more - two myths, two famous people, the Abbey and architectural highlights along the way.

Tour lead: Terry Dixon

Depart: 13:00
Return: 16:00

A bespoke tour of the impressive Reading Abbey Quarter including its varied environs with leading conservation architect Barnaby Wheeler, who worked on the conservation of the Abbey, and looking especially at the evolution, growth, changes and conservation in this historic central area.

Tour lead: Barnaby Wheeler, Principal Architect, Heritage Architecture

Depart: 13:30, for 14:00 arrival at MERL
Return: 16:30 (depart MERL 16:00)

The Museum of English Rural Life explores the history of the English countryside and its people’ while also maintaining remarkable and diverse collection of both the expected – with galleries, library and collections of paper, material, tools and vehicles, including the Landscape Institute and linked resources for example – and the less so: as it holds substantial papers archives from James Joyce and Samuel Beckett! While these last are less a focus of the visit, they do reflect the huge depth of culture and history across Reading’s rich, often unanticipated and always underestimated heritage resources.

The MERL is a part of the University of Reading and work with Reading Museum as the Arts Council England-funded Museums Partnership Reading.

Tours will focus on the building’s history, old and new roles, and its collections, taking us from the original house by Alfred Waterhouse (explored separately in our School Tours) to the modern re-development and extension – the museum proper –by Niall Phillips Architects, 2003-6, described in Pevsner as a ‘long e-w range of two storeys, with a complex cross-section allowing clerestory lighting to both sides of the display hall and on the garden side a projection with shallow barrel-vaulted roofs for smaller displays.’

Tour lead: MERL staff

Depart: 13:45
Return: 16:00

Heritage Actions Zones (with High Streets Heritage Action Zones, or HSHAZ) have been the hallmark of Historic England’s efforts to tie heritage policy more tightly to financial investment, so as ‘to boost economic growth using the historic environment as a catalyst.’

The case for funding Reading’s HAZ focussed on both making the investment and social issues in its case for investment under the HAZ programme. It specified both ’the urgent need to dust off and re-use the historic buildings…to help breathe new life into this part of Reading’ and the extent of economic and social inequity at local and national levels, being at once ‘deprived and the third most unequal city in the country’.

The depth of Reading’s heritage resource was no less important. The case for the Reading HAZ states that: ‘Although often thought of as a very modern town centre, Reading has an incredible depth of history and is home to some wonderful architecture. The High Street Heritage Action Zone includes the cross roads that mark the town's earliest streets (around the churchyard of Reading Minster), the market place outside the gates of its Royal Abbey, and the Oxford Road.’

Tour led by Christelle Beaupoux, Culture and Heritage Projects Manager at Reading Borough Council, or an alternate.

Depart: 14:15
Return: 16:15

The biographer of Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905), Colin Cunningham, argued that between about 1865 and about 1885 Waterhouse was ‘the most widely employed British architect’. Today he is probably still best known for his spectacular Manchester Town Hall.

Victorian Reading, spurred by its rapid economic growth and, as ever, its proximity to London, boasts both an excellent and diverse collection of the work of this Victorian figurehead architect.

Tour lead: Stephen Gage

Depart: 17:00 (after mandatory Health & Safety briefing from 16:50)
Arrive: 18:30, Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) for drinks reception sponsored by Velux (18:30 – 20:00, for delegates seeking departure for earlier dining, and 20:30 reception close)

Led by local tour guide Terry Dixon, this walking tour will cover the social, economic and cultural evolution of central Reading, including its historic banner of ‘Biscuit Town’ ending at Museum of English Rural Life, based on Redlands Road, a building originally designed by Sir Alfred Waterhouse in 1880 for local businessman Alfred Palmer, of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit company.

Tour lead: Terry Dixon

Reception Sponsor

Friend of the School

Friend of the School

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