Reading began life as a Saxon settlement. Reading was originally called Reada ingas, which means the people of Reada. Reada was a Saxon leader who settled in the area with his tribe in the 6th century.
The early settlement was probably in the area of St Marys Butts. (In the Middle Ages this road was called Old Street, so even then it was old). Its position near the two rivers made Reading an ideal place to hold a market (since goods were often transported by water). Reading was well placed to transport goods to and from the Thames Valley and London by river.
Reading is first mentioned in the year 871 when the Danes captured it. They made a fort east of Reading by erecting a rampart between the Thames and the Kennet.
Reading is next mentioned in 1006 when the Danes burnt it. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Reading had a population of about 600.
READING IN THE MIDDLE AGES
The Normans built a wooden castle in Reading. It was later replaced by a stone castle. The king demolished the castle in 1152, fearing it might fall into the hands of his enemies.
William the Conqueror also gave land west of the town and the rents from 29 houses in Reading to Battle Abbey in Sussex. The land was later given to Reading Abbey but a lane called Battle Lane existed for centuries and the name lives on in Battle hospital.
Medieval Reading prospered because it was on the main road between London and the West of England. In those days the journey from London to Bristol and other western towns took several days and Reading was a convenient place to stay the night. Reading also benefited from the Abbey, which was built by Henry I in 1121-1125. Many pilgrims came to the abbey and spent money in the town. Sometimes the king came and stayed at the abbey. When he did he brought a large number of servants and bodyguards all of whom were likely to spend money in Reading.