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  • What It’s Like Growing Up In Reading According To The Celebrities Who Spent Their Childhoods There – Berkshire Live

 October 15

by Carolina

Quite a few A-listers were not only born but grew up in Reading. Whilst a lot of them now call the hills of Hollywood home, they all had relatively humble beginnings in Berkshire’s largest town.

Throughout the years, Reading-born celebrities have talked about what it was like for them growing up in the ‘ding. Broadcaster Chris Tarrant “loved” living there, while life was a bit unsettled for Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, who was bullied at school and faced money issues at home.

Whether you are a celeb or one of the normal folk, anyone who grew up in Reading will have different memories of what it was like. Some might recall the smell of Huntley and Palmers biscuits and others will remember when Broad Street Mall was referred to as “the Butts”.

READ MORE: Berkshire location in the spotlight with David Tennant’s BBC drama Inside Man

Other celebrities who spent their childhood in Reading include The Office star, Ricky Gervais, Natalie Dormer and Jeremy Kyle. Harry Potter actor Kenneth Brannagh moved to the town when he was nine years old.

Jeremy Kyle was born in Reading in June 1965. His mum worked for royal bank Coutts as a clerk, while his dad, Paul, was the Queen Mother’s accountant and personal secretary.

He was educated at the independent Reading Blue Coat School and stacked bananas for Marks & Spencer. He once told the Guardian that this was the worst job he had ever done, which suggests that his former years in Reading were not his idea of bliss.

Kate Winslet once headed back to Reading in an episode of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? to find out more about her ancestors. During the episode she described how her parents rented the house she grew up in and said that she shared a room with her sister. A former resident of Oxford Road in Reading, Winslet told the camera: “I’m not posh at all!”

Whilst Winslet has an affection for her former home, she didn’t always enjoy growing up in Reading. The actress was bullied by her classmates and she said that she was nicknamed “Blubber”.

Ricky Gervais’ life on Whitley council estate

Ricky Gervais's character David Brent worked in an office in the nearby town of Slough.

Ricky Gervais’ character David Brent worked in an office in the nearby town of Slough

Ricky Gervais grew up in Whitley on a council estate that he says had somewhat of a reputation. He also went to school at the Ashmead Comprehensive, which he described as being like ‘the Hunger Games’ at lunch-time.

As a teenager, the comedian enjoyed going into Reading town centre to buy vinyl. He purchased his first-ever vinyl in a long-forgotten record store in the Butts Centre.

In a live stream, he recalled what it was like and said: “It was at the Butts Centre in Reading. I know I had to go up the escalator to a little shop. It was cool. It was really cool. It was one of those shops where its like really dark, with a red light, do you know what I mean? Lava lamps, joss sticks, it was one of those and I remember I felt so grown up.”

The comedian also has memories of hot summer days in Whitley. Gervais said that he remembers the smell of the tarmac on his council estate outside when it was hot and said that on these days he would cool down by swimming in a paddling pool and “sitting under a hose in the garden.”

Chris Tarrant’s post-war childhood in Reading

Chris Tarrant presenting the Pride of Reading Awards 2017

Chris Tarrant once shared his memories of growing up in Reading with BerkshireLive. The broadcaster lived on London Road and loved going to watch Reading FC play.

He said: “I was born in Reading just after the end of World War Two. I loved the place and still do. Our house and indeed the whole town was full of soldiers adjusting to peace and looking for work again. It was a busy town and the air always smelled of beer and biscuits from the Simmonds and Courage breweries and Huntley and Palmers.

“Until I was about eight we lived in London Road opposite Palmer Park – I spent hours in that park with my little mates and played cricket and football every day as soon as I was big enough to hold a bat or kick the heavy leather ball.

“We fished too in the Kennet at the bottom of Liverpool Road before it joined the Thames. Although it was full of fish, the smell of gasometers was horrific.

The old Huntley & Palmers building.

The old Huntley & Palmers building

“Once we could ride our bikes we fished a bit farther afield where the air was cleaner on the Thames between Sutton Seeds and the Sonning towpath. Dad worked for Huntley Boorne and Stevens who were best known for making the tins that contained the famous Huntley and Palmers biscuits.

“They were then based in Southampton Street, near my grandad’s printing firm of Osco’s at the bottom of the hill, although by the time dad became managing director they had moved out to Woodley which was handy because by then we lived just around the corner in Western Avenue.

“As a little boy, I went to school in Christchurch Gardens. It was called Number Nine School, at house number nine in the road. We used to fight with the kids from Avenue School who wore woolly hats and tried to take our posh little caps off.

“Whenever they were playing at home we went to watch Reading FC, going into town on the trolley bus and then walking from the centre. In those days Reading played at Elm Park which was a great little ground, although nothing like the magnificent Madejski Stadium we all luxuriate in these days.”

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Original posted at www.getreading.co.uk

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