Though Whitley today is of course distinct from Redlands and Whiteknights, in centuries past as a manor its ownership impinged on both. It was formerly known as Whiteley. During the time of the Plague of circa 1349, those infected who had not died were removed to Whiteley to some hovels and cottages to either revive or die! It was of course until fairly recent years a rolling south sloping plain of farmland.
The northern edges of Whiteley, as I shall call it, are the fringe of our area: for example the church and vicarage of Christ Church; Cintra Avenue, the Queens Head Pub (all along Christchurch Road), and St. Patrick's Hall in Northcourt Avenue, etc.
In times past it was somewhat different (as the entire area was). For example, the map of 1885 whilst showing Christ Church and its Vicarage, shows the entirety of Whiteley as farmland (e.g. Gully Farm, Whitely Park Farm, Ayres Farm etc). Some houses next to Cintra Lodge (where Cintra Avenue now is) and Whitreley Lodge part way down Whiteley Hill.
And during the siege of Reading 1642-43 (during the English Civil War of 1642-49) Whiteley Hill featured in and saw some action.
The following is the entry of 1923 in the volumes of the Victoria series of History of Berkshire.
"The hamlet of WHITLEY (Witeleia, xii cent.; Whytel, xiii cent.; Whyteleye, xiv, xv cent.) in the parish of St. Giles belonged to Reading Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 51) The nucleus of this estate is found in the grant (fn. 52) of Peter de Cosham to the monks in the 12th century of all his land of Whitley within and without the borough, but sundry other rights and parcels of land in the neighbourhood were subsequently acquired. In 1539 the site of the manor, with tithes, was worth £26 18s. 4d., customary rents amounted to £34 9s. 0½d. and assize rents to £1 16s. 1d. The herbage of the park was valued at £3 and pasture called Catelsgrove at £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 53)
The manor with the park was granted in 1548 to Edward Duke of Somerset, (fn. 54) and, being forfeited to the Crown on his attainder in 1552, was leased in 1553 (without the park) to Sir Francis Englefield, and in 1564 the reversion was granted by Elizabeth to Sir Francis Knollys and his male heirs. (fn. 55) Sir Francis died in 1596, (fn. 56) being followed by his son William, afterwards Earl of Banbury, who received a renewed grant of the manor with the park in 1612. (fn. 57) The earl sold Whitley in 1629 (fn. 58) to Sir William Whitmore and George and Thomas Whitmore. It later passed to the Vachell family, (fn. 59) and apparently descended with Coley till about the close of the 18th century. In 1816 it was the property of Miss Jennings. (fn. 60) In 1843 Whitley Park was owned by Messrs. Allotson & Bros. (fn. 61) of London. About 1876 a large part of the Whitley Park estate was bought by Mr. Richard Atten borough and afterwards purchased by Mr. William Palmer, whose nephew Mr. Howard Palmer now holds it. (fn. 62) .
Land in Whitley was held by the Norreys family in the 16th century. (fn. 63)At the south end of the modern Whitley Street was Conduit Close, the site of the spring head of the water supply of the abbey. To the east of Whitley is Gallows Common, where several executions took place."
During the siege of 1642-43 Reading was a Royalist stronghold. The Parliamentary army of the Earl of Essex laid siege to the town. Reading town was converted into a fortress. The Free School became a magazine of arms. Soldiers were quartered in John Kendrick's house of industry in Minster Street, at the Friary, at the Royal stables in the old Hospital of St. John and in Thomas Harrison's barn on Whitley Hill.
The "main bulwarks" were in the shape of a four-sided figure. From the Friary (Grey Friars Church), the line of ramparts ran to the north-east corner of the Abbey enclosure. Thence they turned southward and, following roughly the line of the modern Sidmouth Street, they crossed the London Road and turned westward about half-way up the ascent of the present Kendrick Road. Thence they passed westward over Katesgrove Hill and down the steep slope to the Kennet. The meadows between Katesgrove Hill and Castle Hill were flooded, so that none could cross them or break in that way. At the top of Castle Hill, the earthworks began again and, from there, they passed in a straight line to the Friary. In addition to this long line of encircling ramparts there were a number of separate forts. There was a fort on Caversham Hill, one on Whitley Hill and one on Castle Hill, and at points along the ramparts, especially where roads entered the town, there were smaller redoubts and forts. It is said that the earthworks were in some places strengthened by wooden palisades and by the woolpacks of the clothiers.