Updates to January 2024
11 January 2024
The Ministry of Justice has announced that Reading Gaol has been sold to the Ziran Education Foundation, described as a spiritual and holistic foundation. Information about how the site will be used is not available as yet, but the MoJ has said that the Foundation will be engaging with Reading Borough Council over its use. The sale has been reported in a number of news outlets: Reading Chronicle , RDG.Today , BBC.
The Ziran Foundation.
Reading Gaol, which was closed in 2013, lies wholly within the area categorised by Historic England as a Scheduled Monument under the title "Reading Abbey: a Cluniac and Benedictine monastery and Civil War earthwork". The East End of the Abbey church was sited within what is now the Gaol area.
16 Jan. 2024: Further information about the Ziran Foundation from the Reading Chronicle.
14 November 2023
HRH the Duke of Gloucester visited Reading Abbey on 14 November 2023, to see the Abbey Ruins and Chapter House, and the Victorian schoolroom experience in the Gateway. He later visited the Berkshire Record Office to acknowledge its recent change of name to the Royal Berkshire Archives as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations.
An account of the visit can be seen in this Reading Borough Council press release.
29th September 2023
A meeting took place in Reading on 29th September to discuss the Hidden Abbey project. This project takes forward the search for the possible burial place of King Henry I in Reading Abbey. It is run by the historian Philippa Langley, who discovered the original burial place of King Richard III in Leicester. The meeting was reported in this BBC News article
25th September 2023
There have been reports and rumours during the summer that Reading Gaol is in the process of being sold to a private bidder. A recent exchange in Parliament has confirmed that the Gaol is indeed being sold, although detail is in short supply. This BBC article refers to the statement by the prisons minister, Damian Hinds MP. It also refers to rumours that the buyer will use the site for charitable purposes.
This ITV Meridian Youtube video is of a 29th September news item about the future of Reading Gaol, featuring an interview with Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East.
25th March 2023
A "March to Reading Gaol" is due to take place on the 25th March 2023 as part of the campaign to convert the site into an arts and heritage centre. The march is due to start from the Hexagon at 12 noon. If you would like to join it, please sign up on the Eventbrite March to Reading Gaol website.
Postscript: an estimated 700 people marched from the Hexagon to the Abbey Ruins. An article about the march can be seen on the Reading Chronicle website. This article on The Guardian newspaper website summarises the background to the campaign. These photos of the event were kindly supplied by Dianne Sykes.
10th March 2023
As part of a plan to increase the number of events in the Abbey ruins, an application to sell alcohol there has been submitted to Reading Borough Council. This article about the application appeared in the Reading Chronicle.
6th March 2023
The Forbury Lion, within the original precinct of Reading Abbey, is to undergo conservation work, as described in this Reading Borough Council press release.
21st February 2023
The Members of Parliament for Reading East and Reading West, Matt Rodda and Sir Alok Sharma, are due to meet the Prisons Minister, Damian Hinds MP on 27th Feb. to discuss the plans for the now-closed Reading Prison. Part of the prison is on the site of Reading Abbey and the whole area is listed as a scheduled ancient monument. The MPs are meeting the minister with a view to encouraging the Ministry of Justice to work with Reading Borough Council, local arts and heritage groups, Banksy and themselves to save the gaol and to turn it into an arts and heritage hub. An article about the scheduled meeting appeared on ITV Meridian News and can be seen in this Youtube video.
Postscript, 1st March: this BBC news item about the outcome of the meeting reports on Mr Rodda's disappointment that the Ministry of Justice are continuing with the sale of the closed prison.
17th February 2023
This Reading Chronicle news item reports on the closure of roads to allow strengthening work to take place on the Holy Brook culvert. The Holy Brook passes close to the Abbey ruins and powered the Abbey Mill during the time of Reading Abbey.
13th February 2023
Four of Reading's monuments are to undergon conservation work, as reported in this Reading Borough Council press release. Two of the monuments, the Simeon Monument in the Market Place and the statue of Queen Victoria in Town Hall Square, are close to the original Reading Abbey precinct.
7th December 2022
The carved head of Hugh Faringdon added to the Abbey gateway in 2021 to mark the Abbey’s 900th anniversary has received a prestigious national award at Stone Federation Great Britain’s Natural Stone Awards 2022. Report on Reading Borough Council's media page.
25th November 2022
This BBC article marks the 9th anniversary since the closure of Reading Prison. The MP whose constituency it lies in, Matt Rodda MP, is continuing his efforts to persuade the Ministry of Justice to allow Reading Gaol to be turned into an arts hub. Sales details about the Prison site can be seen on the Jones Lang LaSalle IP website, where an aerial view of the former prison with the abbey ruins close by can be seen.
19th October 2022
In this Reading Chronicle article the author attempts "to encapsulate the essence of Reading" in a series of single words. It is pleasing to note that the ruins of Reading Abbey are quoted as one of the positive aspects of the town. The word "abbey" can be seen in the word cloud.
4th October 2022
Conservation work is to take place next year on the Maiwand Lion sculpture in Forbury Gardens, within the original precincts of Reading Abbey. An article on the Reading Chronicle website says that the conservation contractors Cliveden Conservation will carry out the work during Spring 2023, to resolve the problems caused by cracks which have recently developed in the stonework.
24 July 2022
(i) The Pantry cafe in the old Town Hall re-opened in June, between 10am and 4pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays. It is on a three-month trial run, with no obvious publicity. If you happen to be visiting the Abbey ruins or are in Reading town centre for some other reason, it is a very handy place to drop in for a refreshment and it is well worth keeping open. The Pantry is on the right as you go into the entrance to the Old Town Hall, down a short flight of stairs.
The MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda, has recently had a meeting with the new Prisons Minister, Stuart Andrew MP, to brief him on Reading Gaol and the campaign to save the historic building and turn it into an arts and heritage hub. Mr Rodda has also set up a petition to save the Gaol, and is asking people to sign it to support the campaign: "Stop Reading Gaol sell-off" petition
29 June 2022
Reading Borough Council have issued this report on the Reading Abbey Revealed project, begun in 2015 to conserve the Abbey ruins and re-open them to the public, which followed in 2018. In the report the Council reviews the project's achievements, and looks forward to continuing work to conserve the site and promote it, and develop the public activities programme.
1 February 2022
Since March 2020 the gates to the Cloisters Garden, the enclosed area between the Abbey ruins and Abbots House, have been permanently locked shut. The secretary of the Friends, John Painter, has raised this with the agents of the owners of Abbots House, and they have kindly agreed to open the gates as from today, 1st February 2022 initially from 10.30am - 2.30pm, on Mondays to Fridays.
So with warmer weather not too far away, this presents a good opportunity to sit in the garden in quiet surroundings within sight of the ruins.
'Hooded figure' in the Cloisters Garden
7 January 2022
The new year started with a petition being set up on the parliament.uk website to re-open the competition process for selling Reading Gaol to new bids. The story behind the petition can be seen in this Reading Chronicle article. The petition can be accessed at Parliamentary Petition. The closing date for signing is 30th June 2022
15 December 2021
A group Save Reading Gaol has been set up to campaign for the protection and preservation of both the fabric and associated history of the Victorian prison, as well as the scheduled ancient monument site of Reading Abbey upon which it is built. The Friends of Reading Abbey were recently approached about supporting the campaign and were happy to express agreement with its aims. The Friends can be seen listed on the Save Reading Gaol - supporters page.
5 December 2021
Further media articles have been published about the identity of the donor who has offered to make a substantial contribution towards the cost of purchasing Reading Gaol so that it can be converted to an arts and heritage centre. The donor's identity has been revealed as the street artist Banksy. The articles have appeared on these websites:-
18 November 2021
Reports have appeared in the media saying there is a possibility of unnamed donors increasing the funds available for a purchase of the Reading Gaol site in order to turn it into an arts and heritage centre. These follow a letter to the Ministry of Justice from Reading East MP Matt Rodda. The reports draw attention to the historical connection of the site with Reading Abbey. The reports are from the BBC and the Reading Chronicle.
Work on maintaining St Laurence's Church has been in operation for much of this year and is continuing. This photo shows the south side of the roof being relaid during the summer.
18 October 2021
Forbury Gardens, located within the original precincts of Reading Abbey, have received Green Flag and Green Heritage Site awards.
7 July 2021
Plans are going ahead for the relic Hand found in the ruins of Reading Abbey in the 18th century, now held in the church of St Peter Marlow, to be displayed in Reading at St James' Church, Forbury Rd. from 14th-26th July. This has been arranged between St Peter's Church, St James' Church and the Confraternity of St James . The relic Hand will be available for public viewing on those dates from 12.00 to 12.30pm, prior to the Mass service at 2.30.
Information about the display and about Reading as a place of pilgrimage in both medieval and modern times can be seen on the livingreading website.
Further information about the relic Hand can be seen in Stories in Stone.
20 July 2021 update: photos from the display of the relic Hand in St James Church can be seen here.
A map of the Reading section of the St James Way from Reading to Santiago in Spain has been published. The Reading section includes visits to sites in Reading and Caversham. Larger and smaller print versions of the map are available.
6 August update: Livingreading's Reading for modern pilgrims website page gives a summary of pilgrimage information in Reading.
To mark the display of the relic Hand in Reading and the launch of the Reading for Modern Pilgrims map guide, a group took part in a walk around the pilgrimage sites in Caversham on 24th July, led by John Painter the Friends of Reading Abbey secretary. Included in the group were the Mayor of Reading, Councillor David Stevens, and Councillor Karen Rowland, Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, along with members of the Confraternity of St James and members of The Friends of Reading Abbey. Photos of the walk can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
2 June 2021
The Friends of Reading Abbey have commissioned a badge to commemorate Reading Abbey 900. A local design student, Katie Holt, produced the artwork. It is based on the pilgrim's badge in the Reading Museum collection - information and a photo of this can be seen in Reading Museum's On-line collection - Pilgrim badge.
The badges were sold at our stand at Water Fest on 19th June. They can now be obtained in the Reading Museum shop at a cost of £2.50 each.
The Friends' Reading Abbey 900 badge
18 May 2021
In a press release headed "Council Refuses to Give Up on Reading Gaol Bid", Reading Borough Council have announced that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has rejected the Council's £2.6 million bid for the former prison.
The MoJ intend to put the site, which lies within the original precints of Reading Abbey, back on the market; the Council intend to continue their push to try to ensure that Reading Gaol is brought into use as an arts and heritage centre as well as incorporating a residential area within it.
The press release includes a link to the Council's March 15th 2021 "Reading Gaol Vision" in which they describe what they believe can be achieved with the site.
11 May 2021
Reading Borough Council have announced the commission of three Reading based creative groups, Berzerk Productions, Strikeup and Ma Bessie, to create digital art pieces to mark the 900th anniversary of Reading Abbey. These digital events will be released in the lead-up to the Water Fest and 900th celebration on the 19th June. Press release with full information.
11 May 2021
Bidding for the Mayor's on-line Charity Auction has started. This is the link for it:
There is a large selection of offers under the virtual hammer so click on the link, browse through the items, clicking on the photos for further details about each, and if something appeals, make an offer!
The Friends of Reading Abbey is one of the nominated beneficiaries of the Mayor's auction so making a bid will help towards the Friends' objectives.
Please note: the last date for offers is Friday 21st May 2021.
6 April 2021
Article on the getreading/BerkshireLive website about the burial of King Henry I in Reading Abbey and the prospects of discovering the tomb.
26th March 2021
Further information has been released by Reading Borough Council about the Mayor's Online Charity Auction, as follows: "THE Mayor of Reading is urging communities across the borough to come together virtually for good causes in the first-ever online Mayoral Auction.
The online auction, which will open to bids on Monday 10th May, will have themes of ‘Life after Covid’ and ‘Community Cohesion’. A range of local businesses and other organisations have generously donated items to be auctioned and the proceeds will benefit the Mayor’s chosen charities for 2020-21: No5 Young People, Royal British Legion and Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and Friends of Reading Abbey.
An online catalogue will be open for viewing a week before the action opening on Monday 3rd May, to allow everyone a chance to browse and choose the items to bid on. Bidders will then have between Monday 10th – Friday 21st May to place their bids. The auction will close on Friday 21st May 2021 when successful bidders will be notified.
Over 100 items will be up for auction, with over 35 already pledged. These range from tickets to the Mountbatten Festival of Music held at the Royal Albert Hall, a boat trip around the Reading Forbury Loop with a cream tea, fly fishing tuition and a private performance of operatic arias or classical solos."
Further information will be posted when available. A reminder of the fundraising information page on the Money Giving website: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CllrDavidStevensMayorofReading.
11th March 2021
Support for transforming the former Reading Prison into an arts venue has come from Kate Winslet, the Oscar-winning actress who grew up in Reading, reported in this BBC article.
10th March 2021
Hugh Faringdon, the last Abbot of Reading, came out ahead in the vote for the new carved head for the Abbey Gateway. The carving will be carried out by Cliveden Conservation and will be unveiled on 19th June 2021 to mark the Abbey’s 900th anniversary. See this Abbey Quarter website page for further information.
9th March 2021
Reading Borough Council has officially approved a new bid for Reading Prison. The bid will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice by March 15th. Details in this RBC press release.
2nd March 2021
Reading Borough Council announced that a fund totalling £10,000 will be available for the creation of digital artistic content to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the foundation of Reading Abbey. The fund is derived from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage using funds provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Council is inviting funding applications of values between £3000 and £5000 from any Reading-based individuals, artists or arts organisations. The deadline for applications is Friday 31st March 2021. Further information about the fund.
1st March 2021
A picture of an escaping prisoner appeared on the wall of Reading Gaol over the weekend of 27th/28th February. The creator of the work was unknown for a time but has since been revealed as the self-styled Banksy.
Reported on 1st March on the getreading website with information about the identity of the artist appearing on the 4th March on the BBC.
BBC 16 March 2021 Graffiti graffitied: part of the Banksy has been painted over
BBC 19 March 2021 The area has been fenced off.
Berkshire Live article supplying background information, 16th March.
14th February 2021
An on-line auction for Reading's Mayoral Charities is to be held in May this year. We are pleased to announce that our own organisation, the Friends of Reading Abbey, is to be one of the beneficiaries of this fund-raising venture. Mayors of Reading have always recognised the importance of the Abbey ruins to Reading, and the current Mayor, Councillor David Stevens is particularly keen to support the Friends in our objectives of promoting awareness of the ruins and of understanding their history and architecture.
Further information about the auction will be released in March. The Mayor has a fundraising information page on the Money Giving website at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CllrDavidStevensMayorofReading where there is also a means of donating to the charity.
12th February 2021
THE enthusiasm and strength of local support in transforming Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture was on show at a virtual summit on 12th February, which brought together key players from across the community to develop a long term vision for the vacant site. Reading Borough Council hosted the Reading Gaol Summit which was attended by representatives from local arts, culture, heritage, business and LGBTQ+ communities, alongside key politicians. An account of the proceedings can be seen on this Reading Borough Council press release.
Further links about the meeting:
Reading Chronicle, 11th Feb. 2021
Reading Chronicle, 16th Feb. 2021
UK Property Forums, 12th Feb. 2021
11th February 2021
Reading East MP Matt Rodda has asked the government for more time for the preparation of a community bid to buy Reading Gaol. This follows the offer by the Ministry of Justice, reported on Dec. 27th 2020 to allow Reading Borough Council time to develop a plan to transform Reading Gaol into a cultural and artistic centre. This BBC news article gives further information.
9th February 2021
We regret to announce that the Vice-President of the Friends of Reading Abbey, Leslie Cram, passed away last week. Leslie was curator of archaeology at Reading Museum until the 1990s after which he retired and moved away from Reading. He wrote a book "Reading Abbey" published in 1988. This is an accessible guide to the Abbey buildings and to monastic life. Leslie learned how to do computer coding and set up this website's Guide to Reading Abbey (at /fora/lesabbey/home.htm). Much of the text from his book on Reading Abbey appears in this guide. Leslie doesn't reveal his authorship of the website guide, but as can be seen, part of his name has at some stage found its way into its url.
8th February 2021
Reading Council is calling for people to help commemorate the 900th anniversary of Reading Abbey by voting for their favourite carved head contender. There are 6 contenders to have their likeness carved and placed on the exterior of the Abbey's Inner Gateway:
- Hugh Faringdon;
- Queen Elizabeth I;
- Jane Austen;
- Sir George Gilbert Scott;
- Dr Jamieson Hurry;
- a modern stonemason.
Full details including the voting link are on this Council news page.
And please note, votes have to be cast by Monday 1st March.
27 December 2020
The Ministry of Justice has said it will allow Reading Borough Council time to develop a plan to transform Reading Gaol into a cultural and artistic centre and seek investment in the project before it accepts any further commercial bids. This follows the failure of the sale of the now-closed prison to a developer, reported on 18th November 2020. Further information can be found in this BBC report and in this Reading Chronicle article.
And on 11th Jan. 2021 this article about the matter appeared on the UK Property Forums website.
7 December 2020
Support for the move to turn Reading Gaol into a cultural and artistic centre has recently come from the thespian sphere. Dame Judi Dench has lent her support, reported by the BBC and by the Reading Chronicle. And two actors with a connection to Reading, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Natalie Dormer have joined the Gaol campaign, also reported on the BBC. Also, 15th December: actor Shazad Latif has offered his support to the campaign, reported on the Reading Chronicle website.
4 December 2020
A PhD connecting the medieval archaeology of Reading Abbey with current heritage needs and opportunities in the town of Reading has been selected as one of eight Collaborative Doctoral Award projects beginning in September 2021. Supervision is by a team from the Universities of Reading and Southampton and from Reading Museum and Berkshire Archaeology. The projects are run under the auspices of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and can be seen in full on the partnership's CDA Projects 2021 page.
18 November 2020
Negotiations with a company for the sale of Reading Gaol have been on-going for several months. It has now been revealed that the sale has fallen through, with the bidder, now identified as Artisan Real Estate, having pulled out. The Ministry of Justice are now reviewing the position. Further information can be seen on the websites of the BBC and the Reading Chronicle, and a view about the development at UK Property Forums.
Other recent items of news concerning Reading Gaol:
- 12 November 2020
Local MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda, has been active in support of finding a cultural and heritage use for Reading Gaol, which has been empty since 2013. Below is relevant text from his most recent Update, issued on 12 November 2020:
"Save Reading Gaol
I was pleased to be able to meet Historic England last week, when we visited the Abbey Ruins to look at the ruins and discuss the Gaol, just before the lock down. The Government Watchdog has stressed the historic and cultural importance of the site and it was good to hear from staff first hand about the history of the Abbey and the Gaol.
I am continuing to call on the Government to rethink its decision to try to sell of the Gaol for luxury flats. I believe our heritage is more important than ever and that the Gaol should be saved and used for the arts and heritage."
- 8 October 2020
The website of UK Property Forums published this article about the sale of the Gaol. The article includes a reference to the Friends' position regarding the intended sale.
17 November 2020
New signage has been installed at Reading Station which will help visitors find their way to, amongst other destinations, the Forbury Gardens and Abbey ruins. This Reading Borough Council press release gives further information
1 October 2020
Support for the preservation of Reading Gaol and access to it by the public has come from Julian Knight, MP for Solihull and Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. A copy of his letter expressing this support to the Prisons Minister, Lucy Frazer can be seen here.
11 August 2020
These Reading Chronicle and BerkshireLive website pages contain articles about a recent Historic England report on Reading town centre, and the MP Matt Rodda's letter following it to the prisons minister Lucy Frazer. The report includes a discussion about the future of Reading Gaol.
20 June 2020
A stabbing incident took place in Forbury Gardens in which three people died and a further three wounded. The following message appeared on the Home page of the Friends' website for a number of weeks after the incident.
Reading Terrorist Attack
A serious stabbing incident took place in the Forbury Gardens, Reading, on Saturday 20 June 2020, which left three dead and a further three requiring treatment in hospital. This was later categorised by Thames Valley Police as a terrorist attack. The attack took place within the Abbey Quarter, near to the site of the North Gate, and in that part of the historic Abbey precinct that has always been open to public access and used for fairs and entertainment. The three who died have now been named as James Furlong, 36, teacher and head of history, government and politics at The Holt School in Wokingham; Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, originally from Philadelphia who had lived in the UK for 15 years; and David Wails, 49, a scientist who specialised in clean energy. The attacker ran away but was apprehended by the police in Friar Street, and is now in custody.
News of the incident has spread internationally. This is a text sent by a former doctoral history student at Reading University, a US citizen currently in Africa:
"This attack took place in the grounds of the former Reading Abbey. When I was doing my PhD at Reading in the 90s I used to walk the abbey grounds (well some, the rest are under the prison) for inspiration. I'm thinking of all my Reading friends today."
Many of us are members of FORA because we share happy and inspiring memories of time spent in the Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins. At 7.00pm on Saturday evening, when the attack took place, the Gardens were full of people enjoying a sunny evening in the Gardens, as local people have done for centuries. It is so sad that this attack has taken place in this special place for Reading. Our thoughts are with all affected.
The Member of Parliament for Reading East, Matt Rodda, in whose constituency the Forbury Gardens are located, spoke of the incident at Prime Minister's Questions on 24th June. This is recorded in Volume 677 column 1312 of Hansard.
Update, January 2021
3 June 2020
A sculpture is to be fashioned from the timber of the horse chestnut trees removed from Chestnut Walk early in 2020. The work has been commissioned by Reading Museum, and will memorialise Oscar Wilde who in 1895 was imprisoned in the nearby Reading Gaol. The sculptor is Eleanor Lakelin and funding for the sculpture has been provided by the Contemporary Art Society. The sculpture will be displayed in Reading Museum.
See this Reading Borough Council press release for further information, and also this article on the Contemporary Art Society website.
10 May 2020
Just to confirm, the Abbey ruins are fully open to the public during the current covid-19 restrictions. The photos attached were taken this weekend and show the ruins open with plenty of room for 'social' distancing. The recently re-opened Chestnut Walk can be seen, its sweet chestnut trees now in leaf. Click on the images for a full page view.
Thank you to John Painter for the photos.
5 May 2020
The Member of Parliament for Reading East, Matt Rodda, has written to the Prisons Minister, Lucy Frazer, asking her to review the decision to reject the Reading Borough Council bid to buy the site of Reading Prison. Mr Rodda, in whose constituency the prison site lies, said such a review would protect the heritage of the gaol.
The letter was the subject of this BBC news item. The text of the letter has been made public and can be seen here
10 April 2020
This statement by The Friends of Reading Abbey represents the Friends' official position on the Ministry of Justice's disposal of Reading Gaol.
6 April 2020
Reading Borough Council's attempt to buy the site of Reading Gaol has failed, but it has resolved to work with the successful bidder to ensure its huge historical and cultural value is recognised in any future development. This is reported in this Council press release, and on BBC News and in the Reading Chronicle. The news has also been reported by Reuters.
It has not yet been disclosed who will be the buyer of this important archaeological site, which lies within the precinct of Reading Abbey.
Further links to articles following the news, added 17/4/2020:
Historic England pre-application advice about the Gaol site, Feb. 2019
UK Property Forums has published various articles:
Report of the news
Risks and complexity of the site to developers
Report on the Friends of Reading Abbey statement
A petition to Save Reading Gaol for the Community has been set up on the 38 Degrees website.
4 April 2020
Chestnut Walk. The work to replace the horse chestnut by sweet chestnut trees has been completed and Chestnut Walk was re-opened at the end of March. The photographs show the thoroughfare as it now is, with smart new surface and lighting. Click on the images for a full page view.
11 March 2020
Further to the 9 Dec. 2019 item of news, the Reading Abbey Revealed project was given a Highly Commended designation in the 2020 National Civic Trust AABC Conservation Awards. Information can be found in this Reading Borough Council press release.
25 February 2020
Most of the Horse Chestnut trees have been felled and removed from Chestnut Walk. The photos below were taken on Sunday 23/2/2020. Click on them for a full page view.
18 February 2020
A march is to take place to call for the Reading Gaol site to be preserved and used to promote arts and culture. The march will be on Sat. 21st March 2020 starting at 12 noon outside the Hexagon.
Anyone intending to join the march is asked to notify the organisers via Eventbrite.
This event was moved on-line owing to government imposition of covid-19 restrictions.
28 January 2020
Further to the news item from 18 Sept. 2019, it has been announced that work to replace the trees on Chestnut Walk by Sweet Chestnut trees and to instal pedestrian lighting is to start in February. This Reading Borough Council press release gives details.
9 December 2019
This Twitter news item announces that Reading Abbey Revealed, the project to conserve the ruins of Reading Abbey and re-open them to the public has been selected to receive a Civic Trust Conservation Award in March 2020. Many congratulations to the RAR team. This Reading Borough Council press release also reports on the news.
5 November 2019
Parliamentary candidate for East Reading neglects to proof-read election material, wrong Abbey ruins are displayed.
BBC News report.
Link to the October 2019 edition of the Reading Abbey Quarter newsletter.
30 October 2019
This article on the Reading Chronicle website gives information about the latest date by which bids to buy Reading Gaol need to be in - December 6th 2019.
28 October 2019
An article has appeared in issue 437 of 'Salon', the newsletter of the Society of Antiquaries of London, about the proposed sale of Reading Gaol. The article discusses the findings of the archaeological reports obtained during the course of pre-sale evaluations at this highly sensitive historic site, and the initial reluctance of the Ministry of Justice to reveal the findings. This link is to the article in Salon.
2 October 2019
Reading Gaol has been put up for sale by the Ministry of Justice. The Gaol, which was closed in 2013, lies wholly within the area categorised by Historic England as a Scheduled Monument under the title "Reading Abbey: a Cluniac and Benedictine monastery and Civil War earthwork" - see map below. Further information about Reading Gaol being for sale can be seen in these BBC News and BerkshireLive website articles.
30 September 2019
The alteration work on Reading Town Hall and Museum has been completed. This Reading Borough Council news item gives information about the changes, which include new museum galleries and the opening of the Pantry Cafe and Kitchen.
18 September 2019
The horse chestnut trees along Chestnut Walk are to be replaced by sweet chestnut trees. New lighting is also to be installed there. Further information is given on the Reading Borough Council News page.
14 August 2019
We are sorry to announce that Professor Brian Kemp, the President and co-founder of the Friends of Reading Abbey, has died, on Monday 12 August 2019 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, aged 79.
Obituary for Professor Kemp and photograph. A copy of an obituary for Professor Kemp which appeared in The Times newspaper of 23rd September can be seen here.
6 August 2019
Further to the news item of 17 March 2019, this BBC news article reports on the discovery of tile kilns and other artefacts found by Thames Valley Archaeological Services during excavations at a housing development site in Silver St. Reading.
18 July 2019
This article on the BBC news website reports on the Ministry of Justice's announcement that it will put Reading Gaol up for sale later in 2019.
Other articles about Reading Gaol:-
16 July 2019: TVProperty article about Reading Gaol campaigners meeting Prisons minister.
7 August 2019: Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR) article about Oscar Wilde scholar's support for Reading Gaol project.
25 June 2019
Reading Abbey Quarter/Reading Museum won the "CulturalAwardsRdg" this year for the Reading Abbey Revealed project and the reopening of Reading Abbey. This is reported on Twitter at CulturalAwardsRdg.
6 June 2019
This article in The Times newspaper reports on the Ministry of Justice's refusal to release findings of archaeological excavations at Reading Gaol.
14 May 2019
Work to strengthen the walls and roof of the Holy Brook culvert under the centre of Reading has begun. Further information can be seen in this Reading Borough Council press release.
14 May 2019
In autumn 2019, for one night the Dormitory area of the Abbey ruins is to be used as a ... dormitory. A fund-raising event to be run by the homelessness charity Launchpad on October 10th is to take place in the ruins, with participants spending a ghostly night there. More information can be seen on Launchpad's website.
27 March 2019
Statement by Melvin Benn on the Theatre and Arts Reading website relating to the plan to establish a theatre and arts hub on the Reading Gaol site.
17 March 2019
Thames Valley Archaeological Services have been excavating in Silver St. Reading in advance of the construction of student housing. Amongst the findings have been tiles thought to be originally from Reading Abbey. Further information can be found on the Educational Resources page of TVAS website.
14 March 2019
Work will begin in early April to remove a small number of diseased and dying trees in Chestnut Walk, by the Abbey Ruins. This Reading Borough Council press release gives further information.
14 February 2019
Budding thespians and similar please note: Reading Museum are on the look-out for volunteers to take on the role of costumed historical characters in the Abbey Quarter over the summer. More information can be found in this Reading Borough Council press release.
7 February 2019
This report in the Reading Chronicle concerns Bere Court in Pangbourne, a former residence of the Abbots of Reading. Further information about Bere Court, including reference to its connection with Reading Abbey can be seen in its Historic England listing entry.
23 January 2019
Two memorial plaques in Reading Abbey ruins have been given extra protection from the adverse effects of weather. This Reading Borough Council press release gives details.
|A talk about Reading Abbey will be given on January 12th 2019 by the Friends' chairman Peter Durrant and secretary John Painter, in Reading Museum. Further information can be found here.
Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR) have issued this report about the group's activities during 2018 towards their vision of turning Reading Gaol into an arts hub.
27 November 2018
The project to conserve Reading Abbey ruins and Inner Gateway has received a notable planning award from the Royal Town Planning Institute. Further information can be seen in this Reading Borough Council press release.
26 November 2018
The Mayor of Reading's Christmas cards, featuring photographs of the ruins of Reading Abbey, are available for purchase from Reading Minster, Reading Town Hall, The Hexagon and the Civic Offices in Bridge Street - further information.
22 November 2018
A 765-home development on the east side of Forbury Road from the Abbey Quarter has been given planning approval, and work is due to start next year. This article from the Reading Chronicle reassures us that "the developers committed to ‘reflect and respect’ the former Huntley & Palmer Biscuit Factory, the Abbey ruins, and the listed prison opposite the site."
3 November 2018
WE ARE VERY PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE FRIENDS OF READING ABBEY WON THE CULTURAL CONTRIBUTION CATEGORY IN THE PRIDE OF READING AWARDS HELD YESTERDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER 2018.
We were extremely proud to have been nominated and overwhelmed to have won. We were nominated by an appreciative visitor whose reasons for putting FORA forward were:
“The group have always ensured Reading Abbey had a high profile both before and during the recent restoration work, with lectures, visits and by purchasing relevant artefacts linked to the site. Well done Friends of Reading Abbey for all the hard work and support you have given and for flying the flag for the Abbey.”
Three members of the committee accepted the award from Chris Tarrant - photo (credit: getreading/inyourarea, their articles about Reading Abbey can be seen here). Article about the event on the getreading/inyourarea website. All the committee would like to thank our loyal members, whose support and practical help has enabled FORA to promote Reading Abbey Ruins, which is such a significant asset to the town and holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Reading. A huge thank you to M & G Real Estate who sponsored this category.
P.S. We will be featuring in a radio programme on The Breeze (tune in at 107FM) on Sunday at 6.00pm!!
18 October 2018
Conservation contractors will be at the Abbey ruins from 29th October to carry out work to prepare the walls of the ruins for winter. This Reading Borough Council press release gives further information.
4 October 2018
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that talks with Reading Borough Council have begun over the sale of the Reading Prison site following the conclusion of archaeological work. A Reading Borough Council press release gives details, including a link to the full report. The information is also reported in this article on the Inyourarea/Getreading website.
10th August 2018
We are very pleased to report that our group, The Friends of Reading Abbey, has been nominated for a Pride of Reading award following its efforts during the period of closure of the ruins. Further details can be seen at Pride of Reading.
12th July 2018
A unique historical themed river cruise is starting up this summer, with the launch of a Reading Abbey cruise. It will be operated by Thames Rivercruise in partnership with Reading Borough Council. Further information can be seen on this Reading Borough Council press release.
8th July 2018
An ecumenical service was held in St James Church to celebrate the re-opening of the ruins of Reading Abbey, and to remember the role of the Benedictine Monks in the history of the Abbey. This photograph was taken following the service.
3rd July 2018
Reading’s Hidden Abbey Project has announced the next stage in its ambitious endeavour to discover the full extent of the Royal Abbey below ground.
Please see this Reading Borough Council Press Release and this In Your Area article for information.
16th June 2018
The ruins of Reading Abbey are re-opened, after ten years of being closed following safety concerns over the state of the walls. These are links to articles about the re-opening and the celebrations on the day.
Articles leading up to the re-opening:
Reading Borough Council press release, 7/6 The Guardian BBC
Following the re-opening:
Reading Borough Council press release, 28/6 Facebook, Reading WaterFest
Reading Chronicle In Your Area (i) and (ii)
Youtube, That's Thames Valley TV BBC
Historic England: South East News, June edition
31st May 2018
Local Locksmith Hands over the Keys to the Abbey Gateway. For further information see this Reading Borough Council press release
30th May 2018
The plaque marking the nearby burial place of King Henry I founder of Reading Abbey has been recreated and placed in the location of the original plaque. Further information is given in this Reading Borough Council press release
23rd May 2018
Plans for a cultural centre to be created at the former Reading Prison were presented at an event held in the Penta Hotel in Reading. The prison is on part of the grounds of Reading Abbey, and the plans include a display of artefacts from the Abbey. An article about the presentation can be seen here.
22nd May 2018
A new interactive map of the centre of Reading has been launched, bringing the history of the town’s Abbey Quarter to life. The online map has been created by Reading Museum, as part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project. This Reading Borough Council Press Release provides further information and a link to the map on the Abbey Quarter website can be found here
7th May 2018
The final sections of scaffolding were removed from the Abbey Ruins at the end of April 2018. These photos taken early in May show the newly revealed areas in the South part of the Ruins.
23rd April 2018
A group of Fora members were granted access to visit the boardroom on the top floor of the Blade as a very kind gesture by Gateley plc. Excellent views of the Abbey Ruins, the greater Reading area and the surrounding countryside can be seen from the room. Photos of the Ruins and Inner Gateway can be seen via these links: photo1 , photo2, photo3 , photo4 .
14th April 2018
Reading Abbey's Inner Gateway was officially opened on this day. Members of the public were able to ascend the stairs to visit the upper room and see the restored walls, windows and ceiling. The Gateway at this upper level is largely the work of architect Sir George Gilbert Scott who was commissioned to rebuild it following the collapse of a large part of it during a storm in 1861. Photos from the opening ceremony on 12th April and the open day on 14th April can be seen here . A photograph of the Gateway soon after its collapse in 1861 can be seen in Reading Museum's Collections Online
28th Mar. 2018
The scaffolding and sheeting has now been removed from the Inner Gateway. The Gateway will be officially opened on Sat. 14th April, with opportunities to join tours of the Gateway on a number of dates: 14 April, 21 April, 23 June, 21 July & 18 August (booking is required for the tours).
Information about the re-opening of the Gateway is at Reading Museum's Abbey Quarter Gateway Re-opening: Activity Cart page;
and about the Inner Gateway tours at the Abbey Gateway Tour page.[NB. All tours are now sold out]
Please also see this Reading Borough Council press release for information.
The re-opening also features in this InYourArea/getreading article.
12th Feb. 2018
At the opening of the new Story of Reading gallery at Reading Museum the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams, announced that the Abbey Ruins will re-open to the public on Saturday 16th June 2018. It was also announced that work on the Abbey's Inner Gateway will be completed during April 2018.
A Reading Borough Council press release about the re-opening of the ruins and the opening of the Story of Reading gallery can be seen here.
Reading Museum's website gives information about the new gallery here.
Media reports of the announcement: BBC , Reading Chronicle
7th Feb. 2017 News about the date of the re-opening of the Abbey Ruins appears in a Reading Borough Council Press Release of 5th February:-
"Reading Museum is delighted to reveal its newest Abbey themed gallery. The new, permanent display about Reading Abbey and its relationship with the town opens to the public on Monday 12th February.The Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams, will officially open the new gallery on Monday morning. An exciting part of the launch ceremony will be the announcement of the exact open date of the Abbey Ruins this year."
The full press release can be seen here. An item about the gallery can be seen on the Museum's blog here.
27th Dec. 2017 Update on the work on the Abbey Ruins:-
Further scaffolding has been removed, from the Chapter House and the Refectory Wall. In the Cloisters Garden, railings have been installed along the footpath, limiting access to the main area of the Garden to day-time. Photos of these developments can be seen here.
29th Nov. 2017 Update on the conservation work on the Abbey Ruins:-
The scaffolding has been taken down from the East Chapels/South Transept area of the Abbey Ruins, leaving the walls in their newly conserved glory. Photographs taken last week of the ruins, including the East Chapels/South Transept can be seen here.
10th Nov. 2017
The former Reading Prison, now closed, stands within the boundaries of Reading Abbey and therefore lies in an area designated as an ancient monument. Funding for a feasibility study to turn part of this grade II listed building into a theatre has been granted by the Arts Council of England. Further information is available in this BBC article.
24th Oct. 2017
Round Mounds project. An update about the 8th June news item was released on the Rounds Mounds website.
11th Oct. 2017
A report in the Yorkshire Post - Byland Abbey describes a project with close parallels to the Reading Abbey Revealed project. Earlier conservation work at Byland using concrete had caused problems and is being redone with lime mortar instead. The two abbeys were founded only a short time apart, Byland coming 14 years later than Reading, in 1135.
The Hidden Abbey Stones Project (HASP) is a project to recover and analyse stones from Reading Abbey that have become scattered around the Reading area during the years since the Abbey's dissolution in 1539. HASP is due to be launched on 20th October 2017, click here for details. The launch event will include an update on the Hidden Abbey Project, further information.
See also Reading Borough Council's press release about the project.
|The Reading Borough Council press release of 4th September 2017 gives details about the proposed interpretation panels for the Abbey Quarter and town centre. The press release includes a timetable for the Reading Abbey Revealed project.
|The August edition of the Abbey Quarter Newsletter has been published and can be found on the News page of the Abbey Quarter website.
3 Aug. 2017 Update on the conservation work on the Abbey Ruins:-
The scaffolding in the Chapter House is complete to the tops of the walls, including on the Dormitory side of the south wall. The south side of the Cloisters Garden has been fenced off and scaffolding is being installed around the adjacent Refectory wall.
Soft-capping in the form of a thick layer of vegetation has been put in position at the top of the East Chapel of the South Transept. The purpose of the soft-capping is to absorb rainfall and release the water slowly over time. This will reduce possible deterioration of the mortar caused by large flows of water down the sides of the walls.
29 June 2017
The Hidden Abbey project features among the winners in the Reading Cultural Awards ceremony. Other winners included "Henry I of England – Reading Between The Lines" and "Inside at Reading Prison – Artangel". The awards took place at the Olympia Ballroom on London Street on 29 June. Full details can be seen on the Reading Place of Culture awards website.
29 June 2017
Update on the conservation work on the Abbey Ruins: scaffolding is now being installed in the Chapter House, next to the South Transept/East Chapels area. Three levels of walkway on the North side and two levels on the South side of the Chapter House are in place so far.
8 June 2017 A press release from the University of Reading describes archaeological work on Montem Mound in Slough and, at the foot of the article, on Forbury Hill in the Forbury Gardens in Reading.
The excavation on Forbury Hill took place on the 8th June 2017. Further details about it are given on the Round Mounds Project website.
5 May 2017
(i) The company carrying out the conservation work on the ruins, CRL Restoration, are running tours of the Abbey ruins to allow the public to view at close hand the work they are doing. One tour took place on 20th April and photographs can be seen at Photo1 , Photo2 , Photo3 , Photo4 and Photo5 . Thank you to Dianne Sykes for supplying these. It is understood that a tour scheduled for May is fully booked up but further tours will take place during the year - keep an eye on the Museum's Abbey Quarter website under What's On>Talks and Tours for opportunities.
(ii) The "See Inside Reading Abbey 360 project", first shown at the "Light Up Reading - Christmas 2016" event, will be one of the activities at the Merl "Digital Takeover" at the Museum of English Rural Life on May 18th. For further information, please see Digital Takeover: a MERL Late for Museums at Night
(iii) Reading Borough Council have issued a press release announcing a major display, consisting of covering the Abbey Gateway in banners detailing the History of Reading Abbey. The press release can be seen here.
|24 April 2017 Reading's Museum's website has been substantially redesigned. Information about the Abbey ruins and Abbey Quarter is now all held in one separate area called Abbey Quarter. This is accessible from the Museum website's Home page via a link at the top right. The Abbey Quarter area of the website also has links near the foot of its Home page to the Abbey Quarter Facebook and Twitter accounts. These give latest news and updates about the Abbey Quarter and the Reading Abbey Revealed project.
|21st April 2017 Work continues on the same areas as previously - the South Transept/Treasury area and the Inner Gateway. The latter now has scaffolding up to the top of the turrets - six levels of scaffolding in all.
|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
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:
Media website reports on this news:
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
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:
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
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.
2. A temporary roof was installed on the Inner Gateway during October.