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Reading's Earliest Years
From Market Town to Railway Town
Nineteenth Century Boom
The Other B's - Beer, Bulbs ... and Bricks
Reading After Huntley & Palmers
 
 
 
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  Themes Homepage > Introduction
 
The Wider Picture
Introduction

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View of Reading from Red Lane, 1823
View of Reading from Red Lane, 1823
The nineteenth century was a period of great social, political and industrial change in Britain. It was a time of rapid population increase. Many towns were transformed from small villages into sprawling urban centres. Growth was also linked to technological changes. The nineteenth century is often known as the 'Age of Steam'. Steam power enabled the development of railways and large factories, which produced cheap consumer goods. Politically the period saw growing pressure from middle- and working-class people to gain the vote for parliament and to have their say about working conditions through Trade Unions.
 
Reading, in central-southern England, lies outside the great industrial areas of England, where many of these developments were felt most acutely. Nevertheless, it was affected by national social and economic changes and it provides an interesting case-study for this period. The town was dominated in the nineteenth century by the Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory - an influence which was far more than just economic. However, other business also played their part in the development of the town. Reading was known for the 'Three B's' - Biscuits, Beer and Bulbs. To which many add a fourth industry - Bricks. There were many brick kilns in the vicinity and the town today is characterized by large areas of handsome brick-built housing. However, before considering Reading in the nineteenth century, we need to know something of the way it had developed in the preceding centuries. London Road, 1823
London Road, 1823
 
 
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