Known for its biscuits, ancient ruins and modern music festival, Reading has lots to attract visitors. Anyone travelling to Reading after the UK ETA comes into effect in 2024 will need to familiarise themselves with the new system. This guide explains how to do that, as well as outlines some interesting places to see in Reading.
Reading had a significant role to play in English history towards the end of the first millennium. Following the Danish invasion of 870, the Danes settled at Reading. In time, battles against the invading forces would take place here. The first recorded Battle of Reading in 871 was an unsuccessful attempt by the Anglo-Saxons to drive the Danes out. It wasn’t until the Norman invasion that the Danes were finally fully expelled, as William the Conqueror claimed England for himself. Later, an abbey was founded in the town by Henry I. This led to Reading’s growth in both size and importance.
The Growth of Reading
The abbey remained the most important building in Reading until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The crown seized the abbey lands, and the last abbot was convicted of treason and executed in public in front of the church. Despite this, Reading continued to thrive, with a lively business in the cloth trade developing. It became the largest town in Berkshire by the year 1525 and was well-known for its mercantile activity.
Reading in Times of War
During the English Civil War, Reading changed hands several times. The Royalists took it in 1642, which led to the Siege of Reading. The Parliamentarians eventually seized it after an 11-day siege in 1643. The war left a terrible toll on the town, as the various armies had taken almost all food supplies. Reading suffered badly in the decades to come, with its cloth trade never returning to its previous glory.
The second Battle of Reading took place in 1688 when James II fought the future William III for the throne. This was the largest battle in the entire military campaign, with James stationing his troops in Reading in an effort to stop William and his armies from reaching London. The people of Reading were loyal to William, though, and gave him advance warning of James’ plans. This led William’s forces to attack from an unexpected direction, leading to a decisive victory despite James’ superior numbers.
In the late 20th century, Reading became known as the venue for one of the UK’s biggest music festivals. In fact, the Reading Festival is the world’s oldest music festival still in existence. It was held for the first time in 1961 when it was known as the National Jazz Festival. Two years later, the organisers branched out, adding more styles of music, with acts including the Rolling Stones. Since then, the festival has grown in popularity, with performers, including Status Quo, The Jam, Nirvana, Public Enemy, The Stone Roses, Oasis and Eminem.
Places To See in Reading
Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 by Henry I, who was later buried there. Its royal patronage made it a popular pilgrimage destination. It was also to become one of the wealthiest abbeys in England, with over 230 relics and lands across the country. However, it was destroyed in Henry VIII’s Protestant Reformation, with the buildings sacked. Later, parts of the complex were used as a schoolhouse and a town hall; the notorious Reading Gaol was also built on the site. Today, Reading Abbey has been partly restored and is open to the public.
Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk
HM Prison Reading, commonly known as Reading Gaol, was built on the grounds of the abbey in 1844. Its most famous inmate was writer Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned here from 1895 to 1897 for his sexuality. His poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, is a bleak take on life in the notorious prison. Reading Gaol has long since closed, and today the town has built the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk, which features gates with Wilde’s image, some of his words and a stone bench the same size as his prison bed.
Reading Museum is dedicated to the town’s history. It includes artefacts from the Roman era, along with a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. Many of the exhibits relate to the history of Reading Abbey. There is also a gallery dedicated to the biscuit industry, which became particularly important in 19th-century Reading. There are about 300 decorative biscuit tins on display and a biscuit that was supplied to Captain Scott for his final expedition to the Antarctic.
The UK ETA for Reading
As of 2024, the UK will introduce a new programme — the ETA or Electronic Travel Authorisation. Based on systems that are currently in place in Canada and the United States, the ETA will offer the government greater control and oversight over the borders. It is an attempt to effectively digitalise the borders and will replace the current visa waiver programme in the UK.
For years, the visa waiver programme has allowed visitors from 92 countries to enter the UK without applying for a visa. When it is replaced, travellers from these countries will then have to apply for an ETA. An ETA is not a visa, and the application process is far simpler than a visa application.
The UK ETA for Reading grants visitors permission to stay in the UK for up to six months. During this period of time, they cannot work. However, they can enrol on a course of study. Students, people on business trips, tourists and other visitors will need to apply for a UK ETA for Reading. Those who plan to spend more than six months or hope to work while in the country will still need to apply for a visa separately.
How To Apply for the UK ETA
The ETA is a digital system, so the application system is only available online. Travellers are advised to apply for their ETA in advance. The application must be completed and approved before departing for their journey. Passengers who arrive at their airport, port or station without an approved ETA can be denied the right to board.
A list of requirements for ETA applicants has been published, and travellers are advised to familiarise themselves with it before beginning their application. They will need to hold a valid biometric passport. The application form also includes questions about personal information, such as date of birth, employment status, contact details, etc.
As part of the application process, travellers will need to disclose information about their personal history. If they have a criminal record, if they have ever committed any immigration offences, or if they are or have ever been a member of a proscribed organisation, they must disclose those details on their application form. Applicants will also need to provide information about their plans in the UK, such as the address at which they will be staying. This might be a hotel or hostel, a friend or relative’s home, or other private accommodation.
When applying for the UK ETA for Reading, travellers should also be prepared to pay a non-refundable fee. Their ETA application will not be processed until this fee has been paid in full. Applications can have a processing time of up to 72 hours, which travellers should take into account when making their plans.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Reading
When a traveller has been approved for the UK ETA for Reading, they can travel freely across the United Kingdom. Although the UK is made up of four constituent countries, there is no internal border control. This means that a traveller with an ETA can leave England and enter Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland without needing any further permission or paperwork. However, visitors who would like to travel to the independent Republic of Ireland or other European countries will need to research the entry requirements, as the UK ETA has no validity in these places.
Your Trip to Reading With the UK ETA
Whether you’re going to soak up the atmosphere at Reading Festival or you’re curious about the story of this historic town, there’s always something to do in Reading. Make sure you complete your ETA application correctly with ample time to spare, so you can enjoy a stress-free trip to the locally known city of Biscuit Town.