|Reading's earliest games were played on Reading Recreation Ground, situated next to the Thames on King's Meadow. This was little more than a pitch, with few facilities, so important matches increasingly came to be held on the adjacent Reading Cricket Ground, which was partially enclosed and had a small pavilion. In the early 1880s, the club moved to its first fully enclosed ground, at Coley Park, just south of the A4. However by the end of the decade they were on the move again, north of the river (and thus actually in Oxfordshire at the time) to the Caversham Cricket Ground. As this involved an awkward ferry trip for most supporters, with the entry into the Southern League and the embracing of professionalism, the need for a permanent new ground was apparent.|
The solution was a former gravel pit at Elm Park, to the west of the town centre, which was leased from Councillor Jesse. The first game was a friendly against Mr A. Royston Bourke's London XI on 5th September 1896. Reading ran up a 7-0 lead in front of a 2,500 crowd before a thunderstorm brought a premature end to proceedings. As a result of this match Reading were fined £5 by the FA for playing against an unregistered team, Mr Bourke's team being just Holloway College playing under a different name.
Reading remained at Elm Park for the following 102 years before moving to the purpose-built Madejski Stadium. The first game was against Luton on 22nd August 1998 in front of a crowd given officially at 18,108, but probably actually over 20,000.
The Elm Park capacity was traditionally given as 33,000, although this was slashed following the Taylor report. After ground improvements, the capacity in its last days was around 14,800. The capacity of the Madejski Stadium is around 24,200. For details on record attendances, see here.