King Street, Reading
An Introduction

Today, King Street joins Broad Street to the King’s Road. It starts at No. 1 in the north-east (High Street corner) and runs to No. 7 in the north-west (Butter Market corner). No. 8 is on the opposite side of the road in the south-west (Minster Street corner) and runs to No. 25 in the south-east (Duke Street corner). Originally, there was no King’s Road and the eastern terminus of King Street was a T-junction with the High Street.

King Street was first laid out at the southern edge of a new Market Place, by the monks of Reading Abbey, soon after the foundation of their monastery in 1120. At first, it was probably just the eastern end of Broad Street. Sometime in the medieval or Tudor period, it was divided into two narrower streets down the centre. The northern street, running from the southern end of the Butter Market and to the southern end of the High Street, was called Flaxen Row, traditionally where the linen drapers had their shops. It was later changed to Sun Lane after the pub there, the predecessor of the Sun Inn in Castle Street that was originally called the Rising Sun. The southern street, running from the northern end of Minster Street to the northern end of Duke Street, was called Back Lane. In 1760, the central houses were purchased by a Mr. Richards, presumably the Sun Lane woollen draper, Richard Richards (1742-1821), and demolished to create the wider King Street of today. It was named after King George III who had just ascended the English Throne.

As an extension of London Street, the narrow Duke Street was one of the main entrances to Reading, but the junction with King Street was very tight and dangerous, causing many accidents, as described by John Man (circa 1808), "On the right is a wide street [King Street] communicating at each end with the Market Place. Here are some very good shops; but the turning at the bottom into the next street is so narrow as hardly to admit of one carriage at a time and even that must keep a line of draft in the form of an S to enter it." In 1874, it was decided to shift the western end of King’s Road north from Duke Street to form the present ‘Jackson’s Corner’ crossroads at the bottom of the High Street. 

Click onwards for Notes on Late Georgian King Street
Click onwards for Notes on Victorian King Street
Click onwards for Notes on Edwardian King Street


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