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An Oracle for Another Age

Posted in This months highlight on 31 Aug 2013

This 200 year-old plan is also in the 'Charter 750' pages, but it is worthy of its own highlight page.

It shows a site which is now adjacent to the Oracle shopping centre in Reading.  That site is the original Oracle, which was a cloth workhouse.  Any jokes about the present Oracle also being a cloth workhouse are entirely misplaced.

There is nothing left above ground of the original workhouse buildings, which dated from the 17th century.  But this plan shows the internal divisions of the main building, a separate school house, the gardens and even the outdoor privies (flushing straight into the back stream of the Holy Brook).

The plan was drawn up in 1807, when the old Reading Corporation - forerunner of the current council - was compiling a list of property that it owned.  Mostly this was outside the borough, and included farms in Bray, Englefield and Burghfield as well as in Hampshire and Oxfordshire.  These farms were let to tenants and the income used for charitable expenditure.

The workhouse buildings of the original Oracle were demolished in 1850.