The Oracle, Reading

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The Oracle
The Oracle logo
The Oracle (559896489).jpg
Broad Street frontage
LocationReading, Berkshire, UK
Coordinates51°27′12″N 0°58′21″W / 51.45328°N 0.97239°W / 51.45328; -0.97239Coordinates: 51°27′12″N 0°58′21″W / 51.45328°N 0.97239°W / 51.45328; -0.97239
Opening date23 September 1999
ManagementHammerson Operations Limited
OwnerHammerson (50%),
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (50%)
No. of stores and services108
No. of anchor tenants2 (Debenhams,
House of Fraser)
Total retail floor area76,200m²
No. of floors3
Parking2,300 spaces

The Oracle is a large indoor shopping and leisure mall on the banks of the River Kennet in Reading, Berkshire, England. On the site of a 17th-century workhouse of the same name, it was developed and is owned by a joint venture of Hammerson and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.[1]


The Oracle takes its name from the 17th century Oracle workhouse built by funds from a local man John Kendrick. This once occupied a small part of the site now occupied by the shopping centre.

In 1997, Hammerson acquired a 22-acre site of largely derelict and undeveloped land immediately to the south of the town centre. Most of this site was previously occupied by Simond's Brewery (latterly owned by the Courage brewing company) and by the Reading Buses depot (formerly the Reading Corporation tram depot). The brewery had earlier relocated to a new site adjoining the M4 motorway, whilst the bus depot was relocated to a location just west of the town centre as one of the first phases of the redevelopment.

Hammerson's strategy was to create a combination of big-name retailers at the new centre, including a number of international retail banners fairly new to Britain. The merchandise mix has strong emphasis on fashion and is slightly higher-end than the average for Reading's main street shops. Peter Cole, the development director for Hammerson said "We were looking to bring in a retail mix that would enhance what was already there – we wanted to get the right caliber retailers to suit the slightly higher-end shopping demographic of the area."[2]

Riverside level at night with the River Kennet flowing through

The main shopping malls comprising phase I of The Oracle were opened in September 1999, followed in November by the Riverside restaurants, pubs and cinema that made up phase II. Once phase I was complete, the way was open to relocate the Debenhams department store from its previous location on Broad Street into the centre. This in turn allowed for the redevelopment of the old Debenhams site as phase III of The Oracle, linked to phase I by a bridge over Minster Street. Phase III provided The Oracle with its all-important direct link to Broad Street, and was opened in May 2000 by The Princess Royal.[3]

Stores and facilities[edit]

The Oracle main arcade

The centre contains 90 shops, including department stores from the Debenhams (136,000 ft²) and House of Fraser (150,000 ft²) chains. A third and larger department store, John Lewis and Partners, is adjacent to the Minster Street entrance but not part of the centre itself. There are also 22 restaurants, cafés and bars along the riverside of the Kennet, and an 11-screen Vue cinema. The Oracle increases Reading's retail footage by one-third, and it has attracted some retailers who would otherwise not have located in Reading.

The Oracle Riverside area, with its restaurants and bars, spans the Brewery Gut, a particularly narrow stretch of the River Kennet. The layout allows space for outdoor tables, and there is granite stadium-style seating and a sail-like canopy. Two bridges have been installed spanning the Kennet, Cooks Bridge, a straight footbridge which links The Riverside Car Park to House of Fraser, and Delphi Bridge, an 'ellipse-shaped' bridge giving access from the Vue cinema to Debenhams.

The Free Form Arts Trust were appointed as the arts agency with responsibility for the appointment and contractual arrangements with artists. Specially commissioned artworks include the Crystal Beacon, a reflective translucent prism by Welsh artist John Gingell that tops off the multistory car park.

The overall centre design concept was created by Haskoll & Co., London. They were called in to design a "retail for leisure" concept, linking the site to a heritage trail around the town.

The Oracle car park and IDR

The Oracle also provides two large car parks providing 2300 spaces. In line with other car parks in central Reading, charges are comparatively high, especially for long term parkers.[4] There used to be a viewing platform on the top, but someone jumped off it[citation needed]


In 2002 Reading was named eighth best town centre in the country.[5] In 2007 the Oracle centre was ranked 16th in a league table of best performing retail centres in the UK compiled by economic analyst Experian. In a separate poll carried out by Verdict, Reading was placed 10th in the table of UK shopping destinations.[6]

  • BCSC award for best new centre in 2000
  • ICSC award for best International Shopping Centre in 2001[7]
  • Secure Car Park award 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014
  • Loo of the Year Awards 2001 and 2002[8]
  • BCSC Best Advertising Campaign 2003
  • BCSC 'Established Centre' Gold Award 2007[9]
  • ROSPA Gold Award 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Investors in People Award


  1. ^ "The Oracle, Reading". Hammerson. Retrieved 5 August 2009.
  2. ^ "The Oracle helps define the future of shopping in Reading" (Press release). ICSC. Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  3. ^ "The Oracle – Useful Facts". Oracle Shopping Centre Limited. Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  4. ^ "Drivers boycott town car parks". Reading Evening Post. 22 January 2004. Retrieved 3 February 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Reading eighth top shopping hot spot". Reading Evening Post. 7 August 2002. Retrieved 3 February 2008.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Battle to stay top of shops". Reading Evening Post. 28 September 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2008.[dead link]
  7. ^ "European Awards Presented in Italy" (Press release). ICSC. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Loo of the Year Awardss: Previous Winners" (Press release). Archived from the original on 23 February 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Shopping centre wins gold award". Reading Evening Post. 20 December 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2008.[dead link]

External links[edit]