The Friends of Reading Abbey

900th anniversary of the foundation of Reading Abbey

Mayor of Reading - Video Talks

Please see panels at the foot of this page for information

The Friends aim to aid the preservation of the Ruins of the Abbey for the enjoyment of all, and to spread knowledge and public awareness of its history

Welcome to the website of the Friends of Reading Abbey. Here you can find information about the organisation and how to join us, and about the Abbey ruins and the history of Reading Abbey. We will keep the front page updated with details of outings and other events organised for members.

900th anniversary of the foundation of Reading Abbey

In late 2020 and during 2021 we mark the 900th anniversary of two events. The first is the anniversary of the White Ship disaster of 25th November 1120, in which William Adelin, the only legitimate son and heir of King Henry I was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Barfleur in Normandy. Nearly all those on board also perished, many of them heirs to the nobility, with huge consequences for the succession of dynasties in Normandy and England.

The second 900th anniversary is that of the founding by King Henry of the great monastery in our town, Reading Abbey, which took place on 18th June 1121. This was just seven months after the death of his son in the White Ship disaster. As a consequence, the charter for the new Abbey now dedicates it to the salvation of the soul of William Adelin, as well as of the souls of Henry's father, mother, brother and wife. The full text from the charter states that Reading Abbey is founded "for the salvation of my soul and that of King William my father and King William my brother and William my son and Queen Matilda [of Flanders] my mother and Queen Matilda [of Scotland] my wife and all my predecessors and successors".

The Reading Museum website has a blog article about the White Ship disaster. Articles by Friends of Reading Abbey member Iris Hunt can be seen on the Other Websites page, and further information about the disaster can be found by searching on-line.

This website provides information about the history of Reading Abbey at Abbey history. On that page, Professor Brian Kemp's "Introduction to the history of Reading Abbey" gives details about its foundation.

The flagship event of the 900th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Reading Abbey, Covid restrictions permitting, will be the Reading Water Fest, taking place across the weekend of 19th and 20th June. This is being organised by Reading Borough Council, and The Friends of Reading Abbey will be present there. We will publicise further information nearer the time - please follow also the Abbey Quarter website page about the celebrations at 2021 Water Fest. And the website Living Reading has published an article about the 900th anniversary. Please note that the focus on 20th June will turn to marking one year since the stabbing incident which took place in Forbury Gardens.

Further links added January 2021:
A getreading/BerkshireLive article "Thomas Becket to Henry VIII: 900 years of Reading Abbey" to mark the 900th anniversary and
Living Reading have produced a Youtube introductory film to visiting Reading Abbey Quarter to mark the start of the year in which Reading Abbey celebrates its 900th anniversary.

Please see News section above for further updates about 900th anniversary activities

Mayor of Reading - Video Talks

The Mayor of Reading , Councillor David Stevens, has chosen the Friends of Reading Abbey as one of his three Mayoral charities for 2020-21. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor has not been able to show his support for FORA through active participation in live events. Therefore we are working with the Mayor and his office on a series of video talks in themes relating to Reading Abbey, which the Council are publishing, including on YouTube.

The Mayor's first talk was in October 2020, with John Mullaney, local historian, author and Friend, filmed at Reading Museum, about the Coronation of the Virgin capital in the Museum's Abbey collection. The link to this video is below:
The Mayor of Reading and John Mullaney - The Coronation of the Virgin Stone

The Mayor's second talk was in November, with John Painter, our Secretary, again filmed at Reading Museum, on Reading's Royal Abbey:
The Mayor of Reading and John Painter - Reading's Royal Abbey

The third talk was in December with Lindsay Mullaney, local historian, author and Friend, on the subject of her new book on Henry I, who died on 1 December 1135 and was buried in his Abbey of Reading on 5 January 1136:
The Mayor of Reading and Lindsay Mullaney - King Henry I, founder of Reading Abbey