town and unitary authority (pop., 2001: 143,124), county seat of Berkshire , England, west of London .
Reading was a Danish encampment as early as AD 871. It was given a town charter by King Henry III in 1253; that charter was confirmed by succeeding sovereigns. Between the 12th and 16th centuries Reading was dominated by a struggle for privileges between the Benedictine abbey founded in 1121 and the emergent merchants' guild. By the 17th century the town's trade, notably in clothing, had begun to decline. In the 18th century the chief trade was in malt. In the city's public gardens are the ruins of the abbey, which was dissolved by Henry VIII. The structure was destroyed during the English Civil Wars, during which time the town in general also suffered severely. In Reading Gaol, adjoining the ruins, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, and it was there that he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol . The city is now an agricultural centre noted for the bulbs produced in its nurseries. It is the site of a university, and its industries include computer production and malting and brewing.