Reading is one of 68 areas of England to receive a share of a £95 million government fund having secured High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) status for three conservation areas in the centre of the town. As a result, Reading will receive up to £806,500 for the implementation of a four-year programme agreed with Historic England. This amount will be match funded by Reading Borough Council.
High Street Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ) are a heritage-led regeneration initiative lead by Historic England, working with local councils and the community to create economic growth and improve the quality of life in our historic high streets.
The high streets, on which our High Street Heritage Action Zone programme is based, are Oxford Road, Castle Street, Gun Street, the southern end of St Mary’s Butts and Market Place. These streets lie in three different conservation areas with distinct characters but sharing similar challenges and potential to benefit from the investment in time, expertise and finance, which will flow from our programme.
The programme combines three complementary strands:
The town’s origins appear to be in the Saxon period around St Mary’s Minster Church at the crossing of an east-west route (Castle Street/Gun Street) and the north west-south east route along Bridge Street/St Mary’s Butts.
With the foundation of Reading Abbey by Henry I in 1121 the town flourished as the monastery was a major pilgrimage destination and one of Europe’s largest Royal monasteries. The town’s layout had a new focus with the triangular Market Place outside the Abbey’s main gate into The Forbury and the parallel east–west running Broad Street and Friar Street, and a new north–south route of London Street/Duke Street.
The many channels of the River Kennet are likely to have been important for waterpower for fuelling mills as the town developed its cloth industry processing wool and this became the town’s chief industry until it declined in by the mid 17th century. The plan of the town recorded by Speed’s map of 1610 is still largely recognisable.
To learn more about the history of the HSHAZ areas visit Reading Museum’s blogs pages where we will be including new blogs about Reading’s heritage high streets.
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All further updates on Reading’s HSHAZ will be added to this page as the project progresses.