Almost two centuries ago, Mary Russell Mitford, a one time resident of Reading, wrote this description of the approach to the fictional town of Belford Regis. The name of the town and its landmarks may have changed, but the approach to Reading and the view from Whitley Street is still recognisable today.
About this point, where one road, skirting the great pond and edged by small houses, diverges from the great southern entrance, and where two streets meeting or parting lead by separate ways down the steep hill to the centre of town, stands a handsome mansion surrounded by orchards and pleasure-grounds; across which is perhaps seen the best view of Belford, with its long ranges of modern buildings in the outskirts, mingled with picturesque old streets; the venerable towers of St Stephen’s and St Nicholas’; the light and tapering spire of St John’s; the huge monastic ruins of the abbey, the massive walls of the county gaol; the great river winding along like a thread of silver; trees and gardens mingling amongst all; and the whole landscape enriched and enlightened by the dropping elms of the foreground, adding an illusive beauty to the picture, by breaking the too formal outline, and veiling just exactly those parts which most require concealment.
Nobody can look at Belford from this point, without feeling that it is a very English and charming scene; and the impression does not diminish on further acquaintance.
Mary Russell Mitford
“Belford Regis; or Sketches of a Country Town”
- Wikipedia : Mary Russell Mitford
- Free books from Gutenberg.org by Mary Russell Mitford
- Digitised versions of “Belford Regis; or sketches of a country town” available from archive.org or google books.