The Library in the past and the library now

The University Then And Now

The University of Reading has a rich history and has been at the forefront of UK Higher Education for nearly a century. CONNECTED takes a look at some of the University’s iconic buildings as they looked in the past, and how they look now.

The Library

The outside of the old library on London Road Campus
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

The history of the University’s Library stretches back well over 100 years, beginning with just a few books on a single bookcase. Starting out on our London Road campus, the Library opened in 1923.

The interior of the old library
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading



As the building became increasingly important to the student experience at the University, it was decided that a new Library should be built on the Whiteknights campus to match the increasing demand. This building work started in 1960, with an official opening ceremony taking place in May 1964, led by the Chancellor, Lord Bridges, and the Library’s architect, Frederick Preston. 

The inside of the library in the past.
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading
Students sat in the library in the past.
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading






Since 1964, the Library has continued to expand, including an extension on the north side of the building in 1985 and the conversion of locker spaces into a small refreshment area in 1997. In 2007, the ground floor of the Library was completely refurbished to create new areas for student group work and Café Libro was opened. A major £4.4 million refurbishment project began in 2009 and was completed in 2014, focusing on rewiring and the installation of modern furniture on the upper floors.

Then in 2016, the Library’s biggest ever refurbishment project began – a huge £40 million investment – to make the building into an innovative environment for learning and an integral part of the student experience. Completed at the end of 2019, the Library has been transformed and looks like a brand-new building with its glass window exterior and surrounding greenery.

The old library building on London Road Campus now houses the School of Architecture.

Find out more about joining the Library at a discounted rate available for Reading graduates.

The inside of the library

The outside of the library today in the daytime.





The Great Hall

The Great Hall in the past and today.
Credit: ‘The Great Hall’ by Brian Richards –

The London Road site in central Reading was donated in 1904 by the Palmer family of Reading biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmer. In 1905 the foundations for the Great Hall were laid.

The Great Hall is a beautiful Grade II listed building which has a fixed stage with a magnificent organ and grand piano. The Hall’s main use today is for graduation ceremonies.

The Great Hall being built.
Building of The Great Hall. Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

Here’s how the College Principal, W. M. Childs described it in his memoir, ‘Making A University’:

“A hall was built large enough to seat a thousand people. Externally, it was of a certain solidity; internally, the oak panelling, and the sweeping curves of the roof gave it a handsome and cheerful dignity. It answered its purpose as a rallying centre of life. Speakers and musicians praised it. Examinees found it comfortable and airy; for festivities it was first-rate; and its floor was very perfectly constructed for dancing.”

London Road Campus Clock Tower

The London Road Clock Tower was erected between 1920 – 1924 as a War Memorial, dedicated to those from the University who lost their lives in the First World War. Today it remains a central part of our London Road Campus where the Institute of Education and the School of Architecture are based.

London Road clock tower being built
Credit: University of Reading, Special Collections

London Road Campus Clock Tower today.








The SportsPark

Students playing sport at Reading in the past.
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

Sport has been an important aspect of life at the University of Reading since the very beginning. When the extension College of the University of Oxford opened in 1892, a boat club was soon up and running and our Special Collections contains a photo of the Gymnasium as well as photos showing students playing sport at Reading.

Today we have the SportsPark, which was originally built in 1987 and was opened by Lord Wolfenden. Today’s sports offering includes a fully equipped sports centre with gym, which includes a state-of-the-art fitness studio, specialist exercise studios, squash courts, and a large, multi-purpose sports hall. The University TennisPark also has three indoor courts in our tennis dome and five fully floodlit outdoor courts.

Find out more about the discounts available to alumni at the SportsPark.

The old gymnasium at Reading
Credit: The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading

SportsPark today






Share your memories

Do you have any photos of Reading from your time here, or memories you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear them! Or, if you know any more information about the history shared above (which is to the best of our knowledge) please do let us know. Please email us at