In July 1898 three senior officials from the RFU held a meeting in Pangbourne. These men were Roger Walker, RFU President, G Rowland-Hill, RFU Secretary and Cambridge Blue G.R. Joyce and their task was to set up a rugby club in Reading. As a result of this meeting the Berkshire Wanderers club was formed and the first game was played at the county cricket ground, Kensington Road, in September 1898.
It was reported that “no such galaxy of talent had ever been seen on a rugby football field in the district.” The Wanderers, 19-6 winners against a London XV, fielded four internationals and, after such a good start, they were able to attract a strong fixture list which included Rosslyn Park, London Welsh, Bristol and Bath.
The club continued to thrive, even managing to put out a team on Wednesdays as well as Saturdays, but had a nomadic existence until, shortly before the Second World War, the land at Holme Park, Sonning was purchased and the pitches laid. After the war a new clubhouse and stand were erected, the stand later being moved to its present position on the far side of the ground. The current clubhouse was built through the efforts of Gordon Richens in 1968 and was expanded, with squash courts added, by Colin Barrett in 1975.
In the 1950s and 60s there was a good fixture list and Reading were a strong side in the area, providing many players to the Berkshire side in the county championship. In 1956 the club changed its name to Reading in order to keep the town name after the founding of another local club who subsequently became Abbey.
This was all before the leagues and Reading were quick to join in when Berkshire set up their cup competition in 1970, one of the earliest counties to do so. The early rounds were played in September with the later stages at the end of the season. Reading won their way through to the semi-final where they narrowly beat Windsor in a quagmire at Bracknell Sports Centre before beating Marlow, competing because Bucks did not have a cup competition then, 16-3 in the final at Maidenhead RFC, captain Brian Dilley lifting the trophy.
After some good seasons in the 1970s, most notably when Dave Baker was captain between 1975-77, decline set in and season 1982-83 was disastrous with only one game being won. However, ground work for the future had been done by John Silverthorne when he set up the Colts in 1975. It was these Colts who were to form the basis of the success which coach Jeff Owen and skipper Ian Turrell brought to the club thereafter. The legendary front five – Turrell, Taff Jones, Paul Guttridge, Danny Pratt and Curtis Hutson – laid the foundation for what was basically a forward-orientated game as Reading were nick-named the ‘Green Machine’.
In 1986 the Berkshire Cup was won after a 16 year wait and was won regularly thereafter, as was the Southern Merit table. In 1986-7 season the team won 30 out of 34 matches and ran Coventry, then among the nation’s elite, close in the John Player Cup, eventually going down 26-12 at Coundon Road. When the leagues started in 1987 Reading were placed in South West Division Two. They lost their first match at home to Berry Hill but were subsequently promoted as runners up. With coach Mike Tewkesbury at the helm three successive promotions in the early 1990s took Reading into the top 30 clubs in the country.
By now professional rugby was on the scene and, with the support of substantial sponsorship, Reading took this on. For a while they thrived, playing five seasons at this high level with a best placing of 6th. However, by the time Tewkesbury left in 1999 problems were already apparent. Significant sponsorship had pulled out and financial cuts had to be made. Successive relegations in 2000 and 2001 took the side back to South West One. Promotion in 2004 took the side back into the national leagues for two seasons before two relegations took the club back into South West Two for the first time since the inaugural season of the leagues in 1987. Promotion in 2009 was, however, followed by relegation back to South West Two for the 2010-11 season. .