Butter Market and the Rows

This has always been the heart of Reading’s shopping district. Until the 1860s it was densely packed with rows of half-timbered houses. Street names like Butter Market, Pig Market, Fisher Row and Butcher Row are clues to what medieval shoppers could buy.

Digging Deeper - Yield Hall Lane

Yield Hall Lane now runs through The Oracle, between the George Hotel and Minster Street. This was the site of Reading’s guild or yield hall, where the town’s guild of merchants, the forerunner of the Council, met until 1543 when they moved to Greyfriars. There was a long power struggle between the abbey and the leading merchants. Both wanted control over the town, the main market and trade duties. Part of the Yield Hall survived until it was pulled down in 1936.  

More recently Yield Hall Lane  was known for the 1960s Yield Hall car park that was demolished to enable The Oracle’s construction. The site was excavated by archeologists in advance of The Oracle development in 1998 and the foundations of the last 17th century Yield Hall building were recorded.

Yield Hall, by Mary E Richards, 1926
Yield Hall, by Mary E Richards, 1926 (museum object no. 1957.48.7)

In 1934 a hoard of 17th century gold coins had been found to the north of Yield Hall during the building of a warehouse for Heelas (now John Lewis). The latest coin in the group was produced in 1640-41 so the hoard was probably hidden between 1642 and 1649 during the English Civil War, when King Charles I and Parliament were in conflict. Reading was between the king’s headquarters in Oxford and Parliament’s in London and changed hands a number of times. It was besieged in April 1643 so it is possible that the owner hid his wealth then.

eight coins from the Yield hall coin hoard of seventeen gold coins discovered in 1934
Gold coins from the Yield Hall coin hoard of seventeen gold coins discovered in 1934 (museum object no. 1934.121)

The Battle of Broad Street

The monarchy was restored in 1660 but by 1688 the Dutch Prince William of Orange led a ‘Glorious Revolution’ against the rule of James II in 1688, and became King William III ruling jointly with Queen Mary II. The revolution was largely peaceful, but at Reading James’ and William’s supporters clashed in the deadly Reading Skirmish, which was also sometimes called the 'Battle of Broad Street'. Over 60 troops were killed in the town's streets.

Reading Fight or Skirmish, 1688
Reading Fight or Skirmish, 1688. © Trustees of the British Museum