Archive of The Friends of Reading Abbey Lectures & Events         


Date Subject Speaker

Sat. 26 Oct. 2019The Friends AGM took place in Greyfriars Church, Reading, and was attended by 79 people. We elected Janet Bond, who as Mayor of Reading was one of our co-founders, to replace Professor Brian Kemp as our President.
The meeting was followed by a fascinating illustrated talk about the Grey Friars in Reading, 1233-1538, given by Malcolm
Summers, a local historian and Friend, in the nave of their friary. Summary of the talk.
Photographs of the event, kindly supplied by Dianne Sykes: Greyfriars church interior , Malcolm Summers , the Friends AGM.
Malcolm Summers
Sun. 13 Oct. 2019Reading Gaol was built on part of the site of Reading Abbey. With the future use of the gaol buildings in doubt, the Friends of Reading Gaol group organised a ‘hug-in’ around the gaol on Sunday 13th October 2019, to support a campaign for its use as an arts centre. An account of the event can be seen in Wokingham.Today. Three further photos kindly supplied by Dianne Sykes can be seen under these links: photo 1, photo 2, photo 3
Autumn 2019Tours of Reading Abbey Quarter were run by Reading Museum during the autumn of 2019.
Fri. 11th - Sun. 13th Oct. 2019The British Association of Friends of Museums (BAFM) held their National Conference and AGM in Reading Museum & Town Hall. The programme included tours of the Reading Abbey Quarter and other venues of interest in Reading. Full details can be seen on the BAFM website.
Thurs. 10 Oct. 2019The Big Sleep Out is organised each year in Reading by Launchpad to draw attention to homelessness and rough sleeping. This year it was held on World Homelessness Day, and for the first time in the Abbey Ruins. Details at Big Sleep Out
Fri. 13th - Sun. 22nd Sept. 2019Heritage Open Days 2019 ran during this period, with events and open venues across Reading. The Abbey Inner Gateway were open on Sat. 14th Sept., 10am-12 noon. St James' Church were open 11am - 4pm on Fri. 13th and Sat. 14th Sept. A programme of events was run in St James' Church by John and Lindsay Mullaney. A flier for this can be seen here. Information and the full programme for Heritage Open Days in Reading on the Living Reading website.
Sat. 7th Sept 2019A new festival "Down at the Abbey" took place in the Abbey Ruins, run by live music promoters Heavy Pop. Further information can be seen on the Reading Arts website.
Sun. 4 Aug. 2019Friends' First Sunday, Caversham Court Gardens. The Friends of Reading Abbey and Friends of Reading Museum joined with the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens for a very pleasant afternoon of events held in the Gardens. An account and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 27 July 2019The British Pilrimage Trust are organising a Reading Fringe Festival Pilgrimage - from Sonning via Caversham to Reading Abbey. Details on the British Pilgrimage Trust website
Wed. 24 July 2019The FORA annual outing was to Cholsey, Wallingford and Dorchester Abbey. Information and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Wed. 3 July 2019The Midland Catholic History Society has organised a day at St James’ Church Reading. Although the conference is for members of the English Catholic History Association, they have kindly agreed that it is open for non members. If you are interested in coming to the whole day all, or just part of it, you would be most welcome. Please see attached information document for details. (Information from John Mullaney).
Fri. 14 & Sat. 15 June 2019A preview of a new play about Hugh Faringdon "The Last Abbot" was performed in the Abbey Ruins by the Reading Between the Lines theatre company.
Sat. 15 June 2019Reading Museum Waterfest Early Bird Exclusive: Abbey Gateway Rooftop Tour.
Sat. 15 June 2019Reading Waterfest was held in the usual locations, in the Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins and along The Kennet, between Chestnut Walk and the Riverside Museum. The Friends of Reading Abbey and Friends of Reading Museum had a gazebo on Chestnut Walk with the focal points being the petition to use Reading Gaol as an Arts venue, and the questionnaire about possible ways of celebrating in 2021 the 900th anniversary of the founding of Reading Abbey. An account and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 6 April 2019 Reading Abbey Quarter held a one-day conference on "Royal Death and Burial - Reading Abbey in Context" in Reading Town Hall. Details can be seen on the Abbey Quarter website What's On page. Further information including the programme and speakers can be seen here. An account of the day written by one of the speakers, Prof. Lindy Grant can be seen here on Reading History, the blog of the History Department at Reading University.
Mon. 1 April 2019The Berkshire Churches Trust held a lecture on "Henry I in Berkshire: Reading Abbey and Windsor Castle". The lecture was given by Tim Tatton-Brown OBE in the Long Gallery at Englefield House. This poster gives further details.
Fri. 22nd March 2019The Spring lecture was held in St Laurence's Church, Friar St., Reading, RG1 1DA, at 7.30pm, doors open 7.00pm. The speaker was Joe Chick, post-graduate student at the University of Warwick, and he gave a talk on the Impact of Dissolution on Town Society and Merchant Guilds. A poster for the lecture can be seen hereJoe Chick
8th - 27th October 2018The Reading Between the Lines theatre company's production of "Henry II", the final part of the Conquerors trilogy and sequel to Matilda the Empress was presented in Reading Minster church. Reading Between the Lines website.
Sat. 27th Oct. 2018The Friends of Reading Abbey AGM was held in St James Church on Forbury Rd. After the AGM, Professor Anne Lawrence-Mathers gave a talk on the theme of "Magic, Medicine and Miracles in the Medieval Abbey." A summary of the subject of the lecture and profile of Professor Lawrence-Mathers can be seen here. A poster for the AGM is here.
A write-up and photos can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
  Professor Anne
Sat. 29th Sept. 2018The Department for Continuing Education in the University of Oxford held a one day course on Reading Abbey entitled "Henry I's Reading Abbey: the Architecture of His Burial Church". The course was arranged in association with the Reading Abbey Quarter (Reading Museum) and the Friends of Reading Abbey. It took place at Rewley House, near the city centre in Oxford.
Th. 6th-Sun. 9th & Th. 13th-Sun. 16th Sept. 2018Heritage Open Days (HOD) are spread over two weekends this year and feature various Abbey related events.
Links: the HOD website's Search page allows a postcode to be entered to find local events ;
the HOD Facebook page for Reading is at Facebook Reading HOD ; the HOD LivingReading page is at LivingReading HOD.
Please note also that the Reading on Thames festival runs from 6th-16th Sept.
Sun. 2nd Sept. 2018The Friends of Reading Abbey joined with the Friends of Reading Museum and the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens to hold a Summer Party in the Abbey ruins to celebrate their re-opening.
Links: Programme for the party ; Reading Borough Council press release.
Photographs and a write-up of the party can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page
Wed. 25th July 2018The FORA annual outing this year was to the great Norman Abbey in Tewkesbury and the nearby Saxon churches at Deerhurst. The programme can be seen here and photographs of the outing can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 16th June 2018 *** The Abbey ruins were re-opened to the public. Reading Water Fest was held the same day. ***    

Photographs and a write-up of this historic day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page
Fri. 13th April 2018The Spring lecture was held in St Laurence's Church, Friar St. Reading. The lecture was given by Simon Marsh, Research Officer at the Battlefields Trust, on the topic 'A Place Strongly Fortified - The Civil War Siege of Reading'. This focused on the 1643 siege of the town, and the Abbey Quarter's involvement in it. The Civil War possibly caused more damage to the structures of the Abbey than the dissolution a century earlier, and ended its use as a royal palace.
A profile of Simon Marsh can be seen here.
Poster for the event.
Simon Marsh
Feb. - Apr. 2018In the run-up to the re-opening of the Abbey Ruins later this year, Reading Museum are organising a series of lectures and activity events at the Museum. These are:
10 Feb 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm    Talks at Two: Early Closing Day - The Day Reading was Bombed
13 Feb 2018 - 10:00am to 3:30pm   Reading Abbey Fun Day
14 Feb 2018 - 10:30am to 3:30pm   Make & Take: Medieval Tile Decorating
15 Feb 2018 - 10:00am to 3:00pm   Bejewelled Medieval Goblet
10 Mar 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm    Talks at Two: Matilda the Empress
  3 Apr 2018 - 10:00am to 3:15pm   Medieval Herb Garden
Thurs. 2nd Nov. - Sat. 18th Nov. 2017The new play, Matilda the Empress, from local theatre company Reading Between the Lines was performed in St James Church, Forbury Road.
Sat. 27th Nov. 2017Reading Museum's "Tea and Talks at Two" series: Professor Peter Stoneley's talk 'Garden Party and Prison Cell - Oscar Wilde in Reading'. Details can be seen on the Museum's Abbey Quarter website. Professor Peter Stoneley
Sat. 4th Nov. 2017Reading Museum's "Tea and Talks at Two" series: Professor Anne Lawrence's talk 'Science and Magic within the Monastery'. Details including how to book can be seen on the Museum's Abbey Quarter website. Professor Anne Lawrence
Sat. 28th Oct. 2017The Friends of Reading Abbey AGM was held in the Waterhouse Chamber in Reading Town Hall at 2.30pm. After the AGM there was an illustrated talk on the Reading Abbey Revealed Project and the works now taking place to conserve the Abbey Ruins and Gateway. The talk was given by Matthew Williams, Reading Museum Manager and the Project's specialist conservation architect, Giles Pritchard (Design Manager - Heritage Architecture, HCC Architects)
Documents for the meeting: Agenda ; Minutes of 2016 AGM ; Secretary's report for 2016/17
A write-up and photos of the event can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Matthew Williams &
Giles Pritchard
Sat. 7th Oct. 2017Reading Museum's "Tea and Talks at Two" series: Dr Ron Baxter will give a talk 'Blood and Bones: the Veneration of Relics at Reading Abbey'. Details including how to book can be seen on the Museum's Abbey Quarter website. Dr Ron Baxter
Sat. 20th May - 23rd Sept. 2017Exhibition at Reading Museum about the Abbey Quarter and ruins.
Also please note the following tours are held:
i) Museum Gallery Tours led by volunteer guides take place on Saturdays at 12.00 noon. These will include updates about the Abbey Quarter. More information can be seen at Gallery Tours.
ii) Exhibition Short Tours are held every Wednesday and Saturday at 11.15am in the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery, Reading Museum. More information can be seen at Exhibition Short Tours.
Fri. 15th Sept. 2017A performance of 'Reading's Royal Burial, The Life and Death of Reading's King' was held at the Oracle Riverside. Information on the Reading-on-Thames festival website. Photos of the performance's Royal Burial can be seen here: royalburial1 , royalburial2 , royalburial3 . Photos courtesy of Toby Davies, Reading Between the Lines and Stewart Turkington, Reading-on-Thames Festival.
Fri. 8th & Sat. 9th  Sept. 2017 Heritage Open Days, Reading Abbey Quarter Tours - organised by Reading Museum. Also, John and Lindsay Mullaney gave talks in St James' Church on these two days - details
Sat. 2nd Sept. 2017Abbey Afternoon at the Library: Talks by two local historians in Reading Central Library on the history of Reading Abbey. Mike Cooper & John Mullaney
Sat. 22nd July 2017Reading Museum's "Tea and Talks at Two" series: Joy Pibworth gave a talk 'Introducing Jane Austen', highlighting her connections with places in Reading and the surrounding area. This talk took place a few days after the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death on 18th July 1817 in Winchester. Joy Pibworth
Tues. 4th July 2017FORA Annual Outing. This year's outing had a Jane Austen theme, as a former pupil of the school in Reading Abbey gate, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of her death. A very pleasant day was spent at various locations in Hampshire. An account of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 17th June 2017Reading Museum's "Tea and Talks at Two" series: Harriet Mahood gave a talk on Reading Abbey Gatehouse in Context. Dr Harriet Mahood
Sat. 10th June 2017Reading Waterfest, organised by Reading Borough Council.
Some photographs of the Waterfest can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Fri. 31st Mar. 2017The Spring lecture was held in St Laurence's church, Friar Street, Reading. An excellent audience of over 70 people gathered to hear Joan Dils’ very interesting talk on the difficult period of the Reformation 1520 – 1560 relating to the parish of St Laurence. Photographs from the lecture can be seen at Photo1 , Photo2 and Photo3. Joan kindly made the notes of her lecture available to the Friends. They can be seen in this pdf file
Joan Dils
December 2016"Light Up Reading - Christmas 2016". There were two Abbey-related events: i) The "Abbey 3D Experience" in Town Hall Square, 12-16th Dec. 6pm-8pm, and ii) the Abbey Ruins "in a new light", Chestnut Walk, 1st-17th Dec. 6pm-7pm. Further information about the Abbey 3D Experience, supplied by Reading College whose students set the 3D Experience up, can be seen here
Photos of the illuminated Abbey Ruins can be seen here
Fri. 9th Dec. 2016The Reading Branch of the Historical Association arranged a lecture by Dr Ruth Salter from the University of Reading on "Reading Abbey - Saints, Miracles and Cure-seekers". The lecture was held in the lecture theatre of Reading School.
"After an introduction into both the Abbey’s foundation, and the role of saints’ cults in the medieval church, the lecture looked in more detail at the miracle collection for Reading’s most prized relic, the hand of St James the Greater, with particular attention given to the individuals miraculously cured by the saint in the twelfth century – an especially important time for Reading, where the Abbey and the cult of St James were in their early years."
Dr Ruth Salter
Sat. 29th Oct. 2016The Friends' AGM was held at 2.30pm in the Soane Space at the Old Town Hall. It was followed by a talk by Ron Baxter, author of the recently published "The Royal Abbey of Reading", on "Reading Abbey as a mediaeval Royal Palace". The minutes of the meeting can be seen here.Ron Baxter
Fri. 9th & Sat. 10th  Sept. 2016 Heritage Open Days, Reading Abbey Quarter Tours - organised by Reading Museum. The following account of the day appeared in the Reading Museum Volunteers newsletter:
Reading Abbey update Heritage Open Day Success! Reading Museum Staff and Volunteers successfully led tours around the Abbey Quarter as part of the Heritage Open Day. We received amazing feedback such as “Really interesting – looking at the remains will never be the same! Look forward to seeing more!” Plus visitor numbers on Saturday were through the roof at 896 people! Thank you to everyone who helped make the two days such a success!
#AbbeyTours online. This year our interns were Live Tweeting during our Abbey Quarter tours. You can get a feel for the tours and public images and feedback at:
Wed. 6th July 2016This year's outing was to Lewes Priory, the first Cluniac foundation in Britain, and included a guided tour of the Priory ruins and visits to the local church attached to the Priory (St John the Baptist, Southover) and to the Anne of Cleves House, also in Southover. It ended with a visit to Clayton church, north of Brighton, which is of Saxon foundation but was later granted to the Priory and features C12th wall paintings by the monks. The programme for the day can be seen here
~~ Photographs of the outing can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sun. 19th June 2016Friends' Summer Party. This year the Summer Party will move to the Forbury Gardens, to celebrate the success of the Heritage Lottery bid. It will run from 2.00pm to 5.00pm on Father's Day. Please click for further information. A poster for the event is available here and details of the community singing of Sumer is icumen in here . Words of the song in Middle and Modern English can be seen here and a photograph of the original manuscript here .
~~ Photographs of the Summer Party can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
~~ An article about the Party can be seen on the getreading website
~~ David Owen Norris wrote an article for BBC Music Magazine about the event. A copy of his article can be seen here
Sat. 11th June 2016The annual Reading Waterfest is this Saturday, 11th June. FORA will have a gazebo on Chestnut Walk (near to the Reredorter entrance to the Abbey Ruins - now closed) where we will have our display and will be handing out leaflets. This will be staffed by committee members and volunteers. If you are in Reading for Waterfest, do drop in and talk to us.
~~ Photographs of this year's Waterfest can be seen on Facebook and here . ~~
Fri.15th April 2016Talk on The Abbot in Late Medieval and Reformation England at St Laurence's Church, Friar St., Reading at 7.30pm.   A poster for the event can be seen hereDr Martin Heale
Sat. 24th Oct. 2015The AGM was held in the Wroughton Room at the Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Ave, Reading, RG1 6AF. After the AGM there was a talk on Monastic and Ecclesiastical Gatehouses. An article about the event can be seen here [Article updated with a summary of the talk, Feb. 2016]. The minutes of the AGM are available hereHarriet Mahood
Fri. 11 & Sat. 12  Sept. 2015 Heritage Open Days, Reading Abbey Quarter Tours. These were organised by Reading Museum. Also on Thursday 10th Sept, tours of the Museum stores.
Wed. 8th July 2015The Friends' annual outing was to Oxford. The programme for the outing can be seen here and an account of the day here. Prof. Brian Kemp
Sun. 21st June 2015 Summer Garden Party in Caversham Court Gardens. To see photos of this event and the Waterfest, please click here.
Sat. 13th June 2015 Reading Waterfest. The next occasion when the Abbey Ruins will be open to the public, under safety-controlled
(“hard hat”) conditions.
Fri. 10th April 2015 Reading Abbey and Catholicism. The venue for this lecture is St James' church, Forbury Road, ReadingJohn Mullaney
Sat. 21st March 2015 John Mullaney will give a talk on the writing of his book "Reading's Abbey Quarter" to the Reading Civic Society
at Watlington House, Watlington St, Reading, at 2.30pm.
John Mullaney
Sat. 25th Oct. 2014
AGM & talk on The Dissolution of the Monasteries, with local reference to Reading.    Photograph here.
Secretary's report 2013/14 here, statement of accounts to 31/08/14 here, statement of assets at 31/08/14 here,
draft meeting minutes here.
Prof. George Bernard
Fri. 12 Sept. &
Sat. 13 Sept. 2014
Reading Abbey Quarter Tours. Organised by Reading Museum.
Wed. 24th Sept. 2014Visit to Winchester. For programme details, please click hereProf. Brian Kemp
Sun. 22 June 2014Summer Garden Party in Caversham Court Gardens
Sat. 14 June 201415-minute tours of Reading Abbey Ruins. Organised by Reading Borough Council.
Fri. 11 April 2014Reading Abbey's Royal ConnectionsProf. Brian Kemp
Wed. 16 Oct. 2013Visit to Romsey Abbey and Wherwell PrioryProf. Brian Kemp
Fri. 5 April 2013Monastic Architecture - Reading Abbey in ContextKeith Hasted
Sat. 29 Oct 2011 AGM & Talk on the Medieval Chapels of Reading & Caversham Dr Julia Boorman
Mon. 20 June 2011Visit to Lewes PrioryDr Anthony Freeman
Fri. 15 April 2011Medieval ReadingDr Margaret Yates
Sat. 30 Oct. 2010AGM & Ruins Stabilisation ProjectFiona Moss
Fri. 9 April 2010Cluniac Abbeys in Britain & abroad Helen Poole
Sat. 24 Oct.2009 AGM & Talk on Monastic Buildings of 19 C. English Revival Abbot Geoffrey Scott
Wed. 24 June 2009 Visit to Malmesbury Abbey & Crudwell Church
Fri. 3 April 2009Current state of Reading Abbey SiteFiona MacDonald
Sat. 18 Oct. 2008AGM, followed by "A Visit to Santiago de Compostela"Joan Dils
Sat. 28 June 2008Visit to Pamber End & remains of priory church
Fri. 28 March 2008Restoration of ancient churchesBob Bennett MBE