Special Collections Services

Special Collections Service reading roomSpecial Collections Services give access to the University of Reading's collections of rare books, archives and manuscripts, and the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) library and archives.

The collections are located in the same building as the Museum of English Rural Life on Redlands Road adjacent to the London Road Campus of the University. They can be consulted in the Reading Room.

PLEASE NOTE, work will be taking place to complete our new welcome space from Tuesday 30th August 2016. The main entrance to the museum and the gift shop will be closed from this time, until further notice. Access to the reading room, meeting rooms and other facilities will be through the staff entrance to the left of the main entrance.

Access: Please note that this temporary entrance is accessed by steps. If you require level access, please contact us in advance of your visit and alternative access will be made available.


The Special Collections Services and the  are housed in a Grade II listed building, which was originally known as East Thorpe, the home of Sir Alfred Palmer of the Huntley and Palmers biscuit company.

East Thorpe was designed and built by the architect Alfred Waterhouse between 1880–1882. This building was later acquired by the University, and was extended to form St. Andrews Hall, a University hall of residence. The hall closed in 2001.

This online exhibition provides more information about the history of the building.

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