Reading Football Club was formed in 1871, when the inaugural meeting of the club was held at the Bridge Street Rooms under the chairmanship of Mr J E Sydenham, who later became the first Honorary Secretary of the club. In those days Reading had already had competition from Earley FC and the Reading Hornets. The latter was to amalgamate with Reading in 1877. The club was further strengthened in 1889 when Earley FC joined them.
The early matches were played at Reading Recreation Ground, nothing more than an unenclosed area with no facilities. Among the opposition Reading entertained here were Henley, Marlow, Wycombe and Swifts. The ground was just north-east of the town centre and was known locally as King’s Meadow. Before moving to Coley Park in 1882, Reading fulfilled its fixtures at Reading Cricket Ground, pleasantly located next to the river Thames. Coley Park was the first enclosed venue for the club, yet lacking facilities of note. Therefore, in 1890 Reading moved on to the Caversham Cricket Ground, yet another unfavourable venue, liable to flooding. On top of that, access was difficult since the bulk of support came from the town for which an awkward ferry trip had to be made to cross the Thames. One may now wonder why they moved there in the first place.
Anyway, in 1896, it was decided that yet another relocation was desirable. A lease of four acres at a former gravel pit at Elm Park was offered. It was to be their home until 1998. Reading now play at the 25,000 capacity Madejski Stadium on the outskirts of the town. Outsiders please note – it’s the Madejski Stadium, not the Madjeski Stadium!
The team’s colours have always been blue and white, but this has taken many forms throughout the years. Narrow hoops were in favour for the first twenty-four years , before dark blue and white stripes were introduced in 1895. The wonderful broad hoops appeared for the first time just before the Second World War. Reading have also experimented with white shorts and blue shorts and with an all-sky blue strip, neither of which brought any fortune. The hoops returned much to the pleasure of the fans. Common myth says that Reading share with Preston one singular honour – because they are a Royal Borough, and because Preston did the first Double all those many years ago, both have the right, never actually used, of wearing their first colours whenever they wish, even if it means the home team have to change.
When Huntley and Palmer took over the Berkshire County Cricket ground opposite Elm Park, Reading became known as The Biscuitmen or Biscuiteers. The Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory was the chief industry in the town. The nickname stuck until H&P left in 1974. Today the club are referred to as
The Royals, denoting the connection with Royal Berkshire.
Reading’s first emblem depicted five maidens’ heads on a blue shield, in fact the pre-1953 arms, granted in 1566. These arms were based on the Common Seal of the town, which was in use as early as 1365. In this seal however, the heads are those of men, the middle one wearing a Saxon crown, the other heads being uncrowned, probably representing burgesses, leading citizens of the medieval Borough and usually members of the town council. It has been suggested that the central head represents Edward I, King of the West Saxons from 975 till 978. He was assassinated at the instigation of his stepmother, Queen Elfthryth, in order that her son, Ethelred the Unready, could occupy the throne.
In expiation of her crime, Elfthryth founded a nunnery in Reading, perhaps on the site of St. Mary’s Church. Anyway, when Reading were granted arms in 1566 during the reign of Elizabeth I, for reasons obscured by clouds the heads were changed to those of females, one being a queen’s head.
Unfortunately this breathtaking emblem was never worn on shirts but only used on the programme cover in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Club blazers from the late 50’s and 60’s era show an embroidered version of Reading’s full arms, now including the two supporting white rams with golden horns and hooves, representing the early wool trade of Reading. The bishop’s mitre in the crest commemorates the once magnificient Reading Abbey. Incidentally, the motto ‘A Deo et Regina’ means ‘From God and the Queen’.
A different badge was introduced in the mid 70’s and shows elm trees and the river Thames, on which Reading is situated while a third similar version commemorated 100 years of football at Elm Park in 1996.
The current emblem was introduced at the beginning of the 1998/99 season, coinciding with the move to the majestic Madejski Stadium. The crown represents the royal connection with Berkshire and the lion represents the famous ‘Forbury Lion’, a statue in the Forbury Gardens in Reading.