Friends of Reading Abbey

Abbey Quarter News

Updates to May 2019

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.
December 2018
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 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:
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]

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

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.

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.