The Market Place was created by the monks of Reading Abbey in the 12th century. They deliberately placed it close to the abbey’s main entrance gateway next to St Laurence’s church. Reading’s weekly market was held here for hundreds of years and the old Saxon market place at St Mary’s Butts fell out of use. Then in the 1970s the market moved again, back to its original location at St Mary’s Butts.
The Piazza was a covered walk located between the church tower and Knollys transept with six arches opening onto the Market place. It was erected in 1619, paid for with money left by John Blagrave. The eastern-most arch next to the transept was later converted into a small lock up cell, stocks were kept in the walkway, there was also a ducking stool here that was wheeled down to the River Kennet when required! The Knollys transept was built by Sir Francis Knollys in 1637 on south side of St Laurence’s church for the family's pew and burial place, it was demolished in 1868 along with Blagrave Piazza.
Find out more about the Simeon Monument in the centre of the Market Place and its architect Sir John Soane on the Museum's blog.