Friends of Reading Abbey

Abbey Quarter Information

Reading's Abbey Quarter

Reading Borough Council have designated the area originally occupied by Reading Abbey (bounded by Blagrave St, Forbury Road, Kings Road and the Market Place) as the Abbey Quarter, and are developing plans to transform it into a unique historical and cultural destination. Further details about the Abbey Quarter are available on the Reading Museum website, link here

Abbey Quarter Tour. The Friends of Reading Abbey have compiled a tour taking in many points of interest in the Abbey Quarter, including areas from where the (currently closed) ruins can be viewed. A link to the tour document is here , and a link to a map of the tour route here

Updates to April 2017

4 April 2017  The Abbey ruins project contractor, CRL Restoration, have appointed Cliveden Conservation to carry out consolidation works on the walls of the ruins. An article about the appointment can be seen on Cliveden Conservation's website
29 March 2017   BBC video about the conservation work being undertaken at Reading Abbey ruins. Includes a contribution by Matthew Willams, Reading Museum Manager: BBC 29 March 2017
24 March 2017   Situation report on the Abbey ruins conservation: The Treasury/South Transept part of the ruins are now fully encased in scaffolding. There are up to five levels of scaffolding walkway round the walls, allowing conservators to access all parts of the flints and stonework.
The Inner Gateway is fully fenced off and the passageway beneath it closed, though the footpath round the side of the Gateway is still open. The brick enclosure on the South side of the building has been taken down, with the bricks stacked up close by. The doorway within the enclosure is now in full view. Two layers of scaffolding have been erected around the Gateway, reaching halfway up the building.
9 March 2017   Volunteers have planted 1000 snowdrop bulbs in Chestnut Walk by Reading Abbey ruins. The aim is to establish the snowdrops by the ruins in time for the re-opening in 2018. A Reading Borough Council press release about the planting can be seen here
2 March 2017   A photocall was held within the Abbey ruins to mark the beginning of the conservation work. A group photograph can be seen here, with the FORA chairman, Peter Durrant and secretary, John Painter towards the right of the picture. Further photos of the event can be seen on Flickr.
Information about the conservation work is given in an article in the Reading Chronicle
27 Feb 2017   Reading Borough Council have issued a press release announcing the start of work on the Abbey ruins.
24 Feb. 2017   An article and photo on the Reading Chronicle website about the start of the work on the Abbey ruins can be seen here
23 Feb. 2017   An arrangement has been set up for the Friends of Reading Abbey and the Battlefields Trust to maintain links with each other via exchange of newsletters and updates. The Battlefields Trust exists to preserve, interpret and present battlefields as historical and educational resources, similar to the Friends' objectives with regard to Reading Abbey. The Battlefields Trust website is at The Battlefields Trust
17 Feb 2017  Report on conservation work on the Abbey ruins:-
Scaffolding is being brought into the area of the ruins and erected in the South Transept (northern part of the ruins, nearest to Forbury Road/St James Church).
The ivy foliage has been removed from the Refectory Wall (the East/West wall by the Cloisters Garden). Both sides are more or less clear of the vegetation. However a thick mass of roots and soil still covers the top of the wall.
A part of the Refectory Wall can be seen in a photograph on this website's guide to Reading Abbey. This photograph was taken 20 or 30 years ago, before the ivy had completely covered the wall. The intermittent course of stone can be seen in the photo, and there is a suggestion of a herringbone pattern, which can also be seen in other parts of the wall.
13 Feb. 2017.  An item on the BBC News website marks the start of work on the ruins: BBC - Work starts on Abbey Ruins
The February 2017 "Abbey Quarter Update" gives the latest news about the work on the Abbey ruins. Please note that amongst other items, there are two events listed: i) Hard-hat tours of the ruins (dates for them are not yet established) and ii) ‘Reading Abbey: Then And Now’ Exhibition, 20th May to September. See the February Update for more information - it can be found on the Museum website in the lower half of the page at link Reading Museum - Abbey News and Events
25 Jan 2017.   Article in the Reading Chronicle about the appointment of the Abbey ruins contractor
24 Jan. 2017.   Reading Borough Council issued a press release announcing the contractor who will implement the conservation side of the Reading Abbey Revealed project: RBC Press Release

19 Jan. 2017.  Work on the Abbey Ruins and Inner Gateway is due to start on Monday 13th February 2017. Information from the Reading Museum volunteer newsletter as follows: "Conservation work will start at the Abbey Gate and Ruins on 13th February; from this date the sites will be handed over to CRL Restoration, the conservation contractor".
22 Dec. 2016.  The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that Reading Prison will be sold for residential development. This was reported in a 20th Dec 2016 getreading article.
19 Oct. 2016.  
(i) Abbey Quarter news: Reading Museum have appointed Equal Studio Ltd as the interpretation designers to implement all the new interpretation temporary and permanent across the Abbey Quarter, including new museum displays; pedestrian signage and outdoor interpretation.
(ii) An article appeared in the BBC History Magazine about the Hidden Abbey project Ground Penetrating Radar research which took place in June 2016, available here
16 Sept. 2016  Revised timetable for the Reading Abbey Revealed project:
Sept. 2016: Start of procurement of contractors for the conservation work on the ruins and the interpetation and signage work.
Jan. 2017: work on-site is due to begin.
Summer 2018: The Abbey Ruins are due to be re-opened to the public.
The Reading Abbey Revealed project will continue until 2020 with a programme of follow-up events and educational activities.
12 Sept. 2016   A press release from Reading Borough Council provides an update on findings from the Hidden Abbey GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey, with "promising features for potential future exploration" discovered. The press release can be seen here.
The getreading website reported the information on 8 Sept 2016, link here.
30 August 2016   A UK Cluniac Sites Forum has been set up to encourage studies and interest in the Cluniac movement and in the sites in the UK which were part of it. Further information can be found at UK Cluniac forum page
15 July 2016   The Inner Gateway when restored could be opened to schools as Jane Austen's Georgian schoolroom - see the getreading website for information.
14 April 2016. Reading Borough Council have published their plan to proceed with the Hidden Abbey project to discover the full extent and significance of the Royal Abbey of Reading. The plan can be seen here.
An item about the project appeared on the BBC News website, link here.
Useful information about the burial place of King Henry I is contained in an article in the 1889-91 volume of the Berkshire Archaeological Journal, entitled "Henry the First's Tomb in Reading Abbey". A link to the article is here (when entered, an Accept button needs to be clicked to read it).
15th December 2015. Great news! The
lottery fund bid for the Reading Abbey Ruins
has been accepted. It's time to

The whole project to conserve the Abbey ruins and re-open them to the public is called Reading Abbey Revealed and its timetable runs as follows:
March 2016: Procurement of contractors starts
Sept 2016: Work on site starts
Summer 2018: the Abbey ruins will re-open to the public [dates superseded, new dates in Sept 16th item]

For further information, see the Abbey Quarter Update for December 2015 in
Abbey News and Events

Media website reports on this news:

Reading Chronicle
Photographs from the photocall held on 16 Dec 2015 to celebrate the announcement can be seen here

Other photos from the photocall can also be seen here

Some of the key documents from the second round of the Heritage Lottery Fund application to conserve the Abbey Ruins have been added to the Reading Museum website, link here
The Ministry of Justice has announced that Reading Prison is to remain as a closed prison indefinitely. Articles about the announcement can be seen on the Reading Chronicle's website here , on the BBC website here , and a number of articles on the getreading website: 12Oct2015, 19Oct2015, 20Oct2015, and 21Oct2015
Update 17/11/2015: HM Treasury has announced that prison sites such as Reading's could be sold after all, to make way for housing. The Treasury may however be unaware that some of Reading prison buildings are Grade II listed and that the prison occupies part of an area that is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. An article on the Reading Chronicle website gives further information.
The unveiling of the memorial to Trooper Frederick Potts VC took place on Abbots Walk on October 4th 2015. An article about the ceremony can be seen on the getreading website here
The second and final stage of the bid for Heritage Lottery funding to conserve the Abbey Ruins was submitted on September 1st 2015. The result is due to be announced in January 2016 and if successful, the project will start in February 2016 to carry out the necessary work to conserve the Abbey Ruins, with plans to reopen them to the public in 2018.
An article on the BBC local news website can be seen at BBC - HLF bid
August 2015. St Laurence's Churchyard wall. The work is now complete and the footway is open.
August 2015. Abbey Ruins. Work has been on-going to remove vegetation from the walls of the ruins. The main ruins are mostly clear, the main exception being the experimental soft-capping of sedum and turf on the top of the wall close to the Cloister Garden. The refectory wall has also had its covering of ivy removed from the lower part of the south side, near the unnamed sculpture.

Reading Borough Council's application for funding to conserve the Abbey Ruins
successfully passed the first stage of the Heritage Lottery Funding bidding process
in June 2014. Further information can be found on the Reading Museum website, link here.

Information about the Friends' letter of support for the bid can be found here.

February 2015: St Laurence's churchyard wall.
Work to restore the wall around St Laurence's churchyard has started. The scaffolding
supporting parts of the wall has been in place for many years. When the work is finished
it will at last be possible to remove the scaffolding to leave the footpath clear.

News, December 2014.

1. A £60,000 grant has been received from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the work towards
the second stage of the bid to conserve the Abbey Ruins and open them to the public. Further
information is available on the 'getreading' website, link here. The full text of the press release
referred to in this article can be viewed here

2. A temporary roof was installed on the Inner Gateway during October. Information about this
and other highlights can be found in the Abbey Quarter Update for December 2014.
The Abbey Quarter facebook page also provides latest updates on progress (Note: if
a login screen blocks your view of the facebook page, click the Refresh button on your
browser). Both are available on the Reading Museum website here