Kendrick was born in Reading, Berkshire, possibly in Minster Street, in 1573 and educated atReading School and St John's College, Oxford. After University, he moved to London where he amassed a fortune in trade with the Netherlands.
When Kendrick died on 30 December 1624, he left £12,500 (a fortune in those days) to the towns of Reading andNewbury to provide employment and education for the poor. A house of industry, or workhouse, was erected in Minster Street, Reading with this money and called The Oracle as a compliment to Kendrick's vision; that name was revived for the Oracle shopping mall which now occupies the site.
Although the funds left by Kendrick were mismanaged, sufficient remained for the founding of two schools: Kendrick Boys School in 1875 and Kendrick Girls School in 1877. In 1915, Kendrick Boys School was taken over by Reading School, which now has a building named the John Kendrick Building. An oil painting of John Kendrick, rescued from the Oracle workhouse, hangs in the hall of Kendrick Girls School. The caption reads "John Kendrick, founder of this workhouse".
Kendrick’s ‘workhouse’ became known as the Oracle, for a reason that has never been established. However, it was of little benefit to the poor clothworkers of Reading. John’s brother William did rather better from it, as he sold his business premises to the Corporation of Reading for £2,000 to be converted into his brother’sworkhouse. The building's conversion was completed in 1628, hence the date and initials ‘JK’ on the massive oak gates now displayed in the Museum of Reading.
It was situated with its entrance gatehouse leading off Minster Street onto what is now the site of The Oracle shopping precinct.