The area surrounding the site was heavily influenced by the development of the Great Western Railway (GWR), one of the main contributing factors to the rapid growth of Reading. The area north of the tracks was mainly used as storage for the GWR signalling works until 1960.
Reading station was opened on the 30th March 1840 as the temporary western terminus of the original GWR line. The time taken to travel from London to Reading was reduced to one hour and five minutes, a 75% decrease compared to the fastest stagecoach route.
Between 1865 and 1867, a station building incorporating a tower and clock was constructed. In 1898 the single sided station layout was replaced by a conventional design with ‘up’ (to London), ‘down’ (from London), and ‘relief’ platforms linked by a pedestrian subway.
A common negative impact of railway development is the uneven growth of areas divided by the tracks. Reading, located south of the railway, grew rapidly and expanded south. In 1911, expansion was focused to the north, annexing Caversham. Since 1989, redevelopment projects aimed at connecting Reading to Caversham have incorporated means of linking the two sides of the tracks, for better connectivity and balanced growth.