The Friends of Reading Abbey Lectures & Events

Meetings are held twice yearly in Reading, on Friday evenings at 7.30pm or Saturday afternoons at 2.30pm,
when lectures are given by specialists on the life of the Abbey and on the most recent developments.
Black print denotes Friends events or with a Friends presence, and red denotes other events.

¦ Fora 'Walks & Talks' ¦   Please click
¦      for ¦   information.

Date Subject Speaker
Sat. 11th May - Sun. 19th May 2024Reading Walks Festival. This is the second year of this festival of walks around the Reading area. The Friends will be organising one of the walks, on Thursday May 16th starting at 11.00am, entitled "Abbot Cook's Last Journey". It will be led by our secretary John Painter. Details, including booking information, can be found on this whatsonreading page. Note: there is an opportunity for pre-walk tea/coffee in The Pantry, Town Hall Square, from 10.00am. Also please note, there is a £3 fee to sign up for the Festival walks.
Sat. 8th June 2024Reading Water Fest 2024. The Water Fest is the annual celebration of Reading's links with the River Kennet, with activities taking place in the Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins and Chestnut Walk, as well as on the river. The Friends will again have a gazebo and bookstall in the South Transept (the area just through the underbridge into the ruins from Forbury Gardens) so please come along to look around the Abbey ruins and have a chat with us.
Wed. 17th July 2024The Friends' Summer outing. This year we will be going to Gloucester to visit the Cathedral and to have a guided tour of the Blackfriars Dominican friary in the city centre. The Cathedral Church of the Holy & Indivisible Trinity is the C12th church of the Benedictine Abbey which survived the dissolution through the Abbot surrendering voluntarily and being rewarded by being made the first bishop of the new See of Gloucester. It is the burial place of a king - Edward II - and retains much of its monastic cloister, including fan vaulting and a Reservoir. The Blackfriars building is under the care of English Heritage and includes a number of monastic buildings including a Scriptorium. This will be an all-day trip by coach, although you may make your own separate travel arrangements. We are looking to keep the cost below £50 (£20 if not coming by coach), including morning and afternoon refreshments (but not lunch). If interested in joining the outing, please email the Friends' secretary: (mailto: secretary).
Links: Outing programme ; Gloucester Cathedral ; Blackfriars (English Heritage).
Sat. 26th Oct. 2024AGM and Autumn Lecture. Our Autumn Lecture, following our AGM, will be given by David Sanchez, from the Thames Valley Archaeological Service, on their 2019 excavations which discovered the medieval tilery in Silver Street, Reading, where tiles for Reading Abbey may have been made. David has recently given this talk to the Friends of Reading Museum, where it was warmly received. The AGM and Lecture will be at the Abbey Baptist Church at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm, and will be finished by 4.00pm.David Sanchez
Recent events
Sat. 2nd March 2024Spring Lecture. Our Spring Lecture is held in memory of Professor Brian Kemp, one of the co-founders of the Friends. It will be given this year by Dr Helen Parish, formerly of the History Department at the University of Reading and now at Worcester College, Oxford. Dr Parish will speak on Monks, Miracles and Memory: the dissolution of Reading Abbey and the writing of history in Reformation England.
The lecture will be held in St James's Roman Catholic church, at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm, and will be finished by 4.00pm. Please note the date is earlier than the usual date for the Spring Lecture.   Poster for the event
Dr. Helen Parish
Sat. 28th Oct. 2023Annual General Meeting followed by Autumn Lecture: Professor Lindy Grant will speak on 'Burying the Royal Dead: Reading Abbey and royal pantheons in the high middle ages.' The event will be held in Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, Reading, RG1 3BE, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm. Poster for the event.
The secretary's report for 2022/23 presented at the meeting can be seen on the Newsletters and Secretary's Annual Reports page.
Professor Lindy Grant
Fri. & Sat. 8th and 9th Sept. 2023Event in the Abbey ruins. Down at the Abbey Music Festival: the early autumn independent music festival returns to the Abbey Ruins, to coincide with Heritage Open Days (HODS) Weekend.   Information and booking at Down at the Abbey Festival website
Fri. 8th - Sun. 17th Sept. 2023Heritage Open Days in Reading. These include a guided tour of the Reading Abbey Quarter at 11.00am on Saturday 9 September, offered by Reading Museum, which must be pre-booked; and an opportunity to look inside St Giles church, which will be open on both Saturdays between 10.00am and 4.00pm: no need to book, just turn up. St Giles is one of the three medieval parishes in Reading, it was given to Reading Abbey by the Pope in 1191, and throughout the Middle Ages it enjoyed the right of sanctuary. John Eynon, one of the two men executed with Abbot Hugh Cook Faringdon in 1539, was vicar of St Giles from 1520 to 1533, when he resigned.   Details of Heritage Open Days in Reading
Wed. 26th July 2023

The Friends Annual Outing. This year's Outing will be to the City of London, to visit St Bartholomew the Great church and The Charterhouse, both within short walking distance of each other, and the Farringdon / Barbican station on the Elizabeth Line. This will include a guided tour of The Charterhouse. The format this year will be different, as transport will not be included in the charge of £25, which as a consequence is lower than for recent trips. Instead we will travel to London, hopefully together, on the Elizabeth Line (09.59 departure), with people using whatever discount travel they have to buy their tickets, and those without rail passes travelling on a group ticket - giving a cost of £19.50 for a discounted Travelcard. Therefore the total cost of the Outing for people travelling by train from Reading should be around £45.

St Barts is the only remaining Norman church within the City. It was founded in 1123 by Rahere, a member of Henry I's court, who also founded the Hospital next door: therefore this year is its 900th anniversary. It has been featured on screen and TV, including in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. The Norman Chancel and Transepts remain, along with a later Lady Chapel. Rahere's tomb is still in the church.

The Charterhouse was a Carthusian priory founded in 1371 just outside the walls of London, which was dissolved in 1537 following the resistance of the chapter, with Abbot Houghton being hanged at Tyburn and 10 monks imprisoned in Newgate where nine starved to death, the survivor then being executed: they are the Carthusian Martyrs of London. Charterhouse Square also features Florey Court, used as Whitehaven Mansions, the home of Hercule Poirot, in the ITV drama series.

An account and photos of the outing can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.

Wed. 12th July - Sat. 22nd July 2023Event in the Abbey ruins. Progress Theatre will be presenting one of their Open Air Shakespeare performances in the ruins of Reading Abbey, with this year's performance being of the comedy Twelfth Night. No performance on Sun. 16th July. Further information and booking.
Tues. 13th June - Sat. 1st July 2023Event in the Abbey ruins. Rabble Theatre will be staging a performance of the play Henry I by Beth Flintoff in the Abbey ruins.  On Thursdays and Saturdays there will be afternoon as well as evening performances. Also please note that after the Wed. 28th June showing there will be a "Meet the Company" Q&A session when we will be able to take an opportunity to talk to Rabble representatives.
Further information including booking details can be found on the Rabble theatre website.

This BBC news article reports the award of a £100,000 grant by Arts Council England towards the production of the play.
Sat. 10th June 2023Reading Water Fest 2023. The Water Fest is the annual celebration of Reading's links with the River Kennet, with activities taking place in the Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins and Chestnut Walk, as well as on the river. The Friends will again have a gazebo and bookstall in the South Transept, along with Reading Museum and other heritage groups. We hope that the new edition of Brian Kemp's original 1968 Guide to Reading Abbey will be available for sale, at £5 a copy, excellent value for what is still a definitive guide to the establishment of the Abbey.
An account and photos of Water Fest 2023 can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Fri. 9th June 2023This night of disco in the Abbey ruins is a prelude to the Reading Water Fest on the 10th June. From 6pm, details at Whatsonreading 9th June
Wed. 31st May 2023A group of Friends of Reading Abbey members took part in a walk along the Holy Brook from its source near Theale to where it rejoins the River Kennet by the Abbey ruins. A write-up and photos of the walk can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Fri. 12th and Sun. 14th May 2023Reading Walks Festival, 10th - 14th May. Two of the walks were hosted by the Friends of Reading Abbey: on Friday 12th May "Reading and Caversham Pilgrimage Sites" and on Sunday 14th May, the "Reading Abbey Quarter Circular Walk". An account and photos of the Reading and Caversham Pilgrimage Sites walk can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.

Sat. & Sun. 6th and 7th May 2023Events in the Abbey ruins. To celebrate the coronation of King Charles III: on Sat. 6th May, 3-10.30pm, the indie pop group Scouting for Girls ; on Sun. 7th May, 12 - 6.30pm, King's Coronation Tribute Festival
Fri. 28th - Sun. 30th April 2023Event in Forbury Gardens. Bringing to mind the Cheese Fairs held in The Forbury during the 19th century, this Cheese Feast 2023 will provide Street Food and Live Entertainment over the last weekend in April.
Sat. 18th March 2023The Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture. Dr Jamie Ingram will speak on the theme of the archaeological evidence of Pilgrimage. The lecture will take place in St James' Church, Forbury Rd, Reading, RG1 3FD, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm. Entry is free, there will be a retiring collection. Poster for the event
Postscript: nearly 90 people were in St James Church to enjoy Dr Ingram's talk. These photos show Dr Ingram with, in the left photo the Friends' chairman Dr Peter Durrant - and also featuring the font made from sculpted stonework originally from Reading Abbey.
Dr Jamie Ingram
Sat. 11th March 2023A presentation by artist Halima Cassell "Sculpting a response to the Abbey Stones" will take place in Reading Museum, 3pm - 4pm. Further information about Halima Cassell's work can be seen on the Reading museum website. There is no charge for attending the presentation, but booking is required, via the Museum's Abstract Art page.
Sat. 29th Oct. 2022AGM and Autumn Lecture: the AGM was followed by a lecture by Chris Darbyshire, local author, on Reading's Last Abbot: Hugh Cook Faringdon, whose biography Chris published in 2018 (Scallop Shell Press). The AGM was held in the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, Reading RG1 3BE and started at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm. Entry free, retiring collection.  Further information about the lecture can be seen on the Event poster.Chris Darbyshire
Sat. 8th Oct. 2022A chance to have an overnight stay in the Abbey ruins: local charity Launchpad are holding this year's Big Sleep Out in the ruins. Launchpad is Reading's leading homelessness-prevention charity, and they are holding this event to mark World Homelessness Day. Participants help raise funds by "taking on the challenge of swapping a comfortable bed for a sleeping bag at this historic location". The event will run overnight from 6.30pm to 7.00am on the Sunday morning. The evening starts at St Laurence's church for entertainment, before moving into the Abbey Ruins at 10pm. More details, including how to take part, are given in this Launchpad press release.
Wed. 17th - Sat. 20th August 2022Summer Screens presents... Reading Open Air Cinema in the Abbey Ruins, four films on consecutive nights.
For details and booking please see Summer Screens
.    NB All Summer Screens showings have been cancelled.
Sat. 6th August 2022Berkshire Heritage Online Fair. This is an innovative event being organised by the Berkshire Family History Society and the Berkshire Local History Association, to build on our COVID lockdown experience of on-line meetings to run the first-ever virtual Heritage Fair for Berkshire. Anybody can access the Fair via Zoom.
The Friends of Reading Abbey is one of 30 local heritage organisations which will be taking part, with our own breakout room. The Fair will be run in two separate sessions, from 10am to noon, and 2pm to 4pm.
Attendance is free, and open to all interested people - whether you live in Berkshire, UK or Berkshire County, Massachusetts, or anywhere else in the world - but booking is essential to attend. The link to book is on the Berkshire Family history website at As can be seen from the page, help will be available, including for those not familiar with use of the Zoom application.
A number of committee members will be trying to run the Friends breakout room! It could be worth zooming in just to see how we get on.
Wed. 3rd Aug. 2022This year we are planning an outing to Abingdon, in conjunction with the Abingdon Abbey Building Trust. This will be a coach trip, leaving at 10.00am and returning between 5.00pm and 6.00pm. The focus will be on Abingdon Abbey and related buildings, including St Nicolas Church and the Guildhall. We hope the day will be able to take in other buildings of historic interest in Abingdon, including the County Hall (also Abingdon Museum), St Helen's Church and the nearby Almshouses.
Programme for the day.    Photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Wed. 20th - Sat. 30th July 2022 (not 24th)Progress Theatre in the Ruins: The Reading Progress Theatre are performing Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in the Abbey ruins between 20-30 July (NB except Sunday 24th July). For further information and booking details please visit the Progress Theatre website.
Sun. 24th July 2022Informal event in Caversham Court Gardens. The Friends will be setting up a display alongside the Friends of Reading Museum. We will be joining in with the Ways and Means Trust who are running their dog show "Canine Capers". So come along and see the displays, chat to us and enjoy watching the various dog pageants. The show will run from 12 noon to approx. 1.30pm. Refreshments available at the Tea Kiosk. More information about the dog show at Canine Capers.    Ways and Means Trust.   Please see the Look Back at Past Events page for some photos of the event.
Wed. 20th July 2022In the Zoom talk given on 27 January 2022, Robin Dorkings of the Con-Fraternity of St James spoke about the Camino Ingles and in particular the St James Way, the 68-mile pilgrim trail from Reading to Southampton which the Con-Fraternity have developed and are promoting. The Con-Fraternity have kindly agreed to offer us a guided walk of the first ten or so miles of St James Way, from Reading Abbey to Burghfield Common, from where there are buses back to Reading. The walk will start at 10.30am, from St James's church, with the aim of getting to Burghfield Common before 4pm. There will be refreshment stops on the way, The Cunning Man, and the Fox & Hounds at Sheffield Bottom, from where there will also be opportunities to leave the walk using public transport links back to Reading. The walk will be led by a guide from the Con-Fraternity. There will be no charge to take part, but bring or buy your own refreshments, and meet your own transport costs. For further details please email the Friends' secretary: (mailto: secretary).
Sat. 18th June 2022To celebrate the 901st anniversary of the Abbey's foundation, and on the foundation day, we are holding an additional public lecture, by Professor James Clark of the University of Exeter, on the Dissolution of the Monasteries and its impact at Reading, the subject of his book published this year. The lecture will be held in St James’ Church, Abbot’s Walk  The Forbury  Reading  RG1 3HW, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2pm. There is no charge for entry, there will be a retiring collection.
Event poster
Prof. James Clark
Thurs. 2nd - Sun. 5th June 2022

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee and Reading Water Fest 2022

* * * For an account and photos of a very successful Water Fest 2022,
please go to the Look Back at Past Events page.
* * *

A range of Jubilee celebration events and activities will be taking place in Reading over the Platinum Jubilee, including:

  • A beacon lighting ceremony in the Abbey Ruins on the evening of 2 June 2022. Information can be found on whatsonreading though please note this has now sold out
  • A specially created, augmented reality trail across Reading to link with our Mayor’s charity sponsored walk across Reading over the Jubilee weekend
  • Trinity Concert Band children’s concert at the Forbury Bandstand on Sunday 5 June
  • Jubilee exhibition at Berkshire Record Office - May 26 to August 26
  • A range of Jubilee-related activities at Reading Museum, including a Platinum Pudding Trail and Jubilee Dress-Up
  • Reading Libraries Jubilee Rhymetime in the Forbury Gardens – Wednesday 3 August
  • Jubilee Street Parties - 2 to 5 June
  • Reading Water Fest on Saturday 4th June, 11am - 5pm
FORA will have a stall at the Water Fest on the Saturday, 4 June. We will be in the South Transept, along with other local cultural and heritage groups including the Friends of Reading Museum, Reading Civic Society, and the Con-Fraternity of St James. We will have a book stall, and displays linked to the Abbey history; we will also be selling our Reading Abbey 900 badges. And we will be running a children's history trail. Come along to call by and say hello.

Also: Friday 3rd June, 4.30pm: The Jubilee Tribute Concert in the Abbey Ruins. The top UK tribute bands, including Queen, The Beatles and George Michael, come together for a night under the stars to celebrate the Jubilee in one of Reading's most prestigious heritage sites. You can book tickets online at .

Further information about the platinum jubilee celebrations is on the Visit Reading website.

Sat. 26th March 2022The second Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture, in memory of our founder and late President, who died in 2019. It will be given by Dr Fredrica Teale of the University of Southampton who will talk on the Reading Formulary, the rare Fourteenth Century Abbey manuscript which Brian helped to locate in private hands, and which the Friends helped to purchase for the Berkshire Record Office in 2013. Dr Teale has just completed her PhD on the Formulary.
The event will take place at Abbey Baptist Church on Abbey Square, Reading, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm. This will be a public event, all are welcome. No charge, there will be a retiring collection. Event poster
Dr Fredrica Teale
Fri. 3rd - Fri. 31st December 2021Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town. The Twilight Trail returns to Reading’s stunning Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens with a biscuit-themed trail to celebrate Reading’s link with the world-famous Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory. See Whatsonreading for details and booking information.
Sat. 30th Oct. 2021The Friends' AGM. We are planning a live meeting, our first since 2019, at Abbey Baptist Church, in Abbey Square, within the Abbey precinct. Doors will open at 2.00pm for a 2.30pm start. The AGM will be followed by an illustrated talk by Dr Joanna Laynesmith, Research Fellow at the University of Reading, on "Elizabeth Woodville: A knight’s widow 'openly honoured as queen' at Reading Abbey."  AGM poster.Dr Joanna Laynesmith
Tues. 28th Sept. 2021The University of Reading is presenting a lecture "Reading Abbey at 900 - Revealing Reading Abbey's Archaeology". Archaeologist and architectural historian Tim Tatton-Brown will be exploring the archaeological archives to shed new light on the development of Reading Abbey, including the probable location of the tomb of Henry I. The lecture will start at 7.00pm.  Event poster. Tim Tatton-Brown
Fri. 20th - Sun. 22nd Aug. 2021Summer Screens presents... Reading Open Air Cinema in the Abbey Ruins, three films on consecutive nights. For details and booking please see Summer Screens.
Wed. 14th July - Sat. 24th July 2021Progress Theatre are presenting an Open Air Shakespeare performance of Romeo and Juliet in the Abbey Ruins, celebrating both the 900th anniversary since the founding of Reading Abbey, and Progress Theatre's return to open-air theatre following the start of Covid-19. Progress Theatre's What's On page.
Fri. 11th June - Sat. 3rd July 2021Rabble Theatre are presenting a new play by Beth Flintoff: "The Last Abbot", about Hugh Faringdon, the last abbot of Reading Abbey, Henry VIII, and the ruin of the Abbey. The play will be performed in the Abbey ruins, so an opportunity to enjoy a play about the Abbey while seated within its majestic ruins. Further information and booking on the Rabble Theatre website.
Sat. 19th June 2021Reading Borough Council have announced that the annual Water Fest will be going ahead this year, and will be combined with a celebration of the 900th Anniversary of Reading Abbey. As can be seen there is a long list of activities and entertainments, so get the day marked in your diary. The format will differ from previous years owing to covid-19 restrictions, and entry will be by ticket only - booking is at The Friends of Reading Abbey will be there, in the South Transept of the ruins, so do come and see us there.
Postscript: an account and photos of a very successful Reading Water Fest can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Thurs. 20th May 2021Dr Joe Chick, from Warwick University gave an update to his 2019 Spring Lecture, on Reading in the Late Fifteenth Century, starting at 7.30pm. This was a virtual event held via Zoom. Dr Joe Chick
Sat. 27th March 2021The Spring lecture will this year be delivered by Dr Adrian Ailes, who will be speaking on The Heraldry of Reading Abbey and its Legacy. This will be the inaugural Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture, in memory of our late President and co-founder who died in August 2019. It was deferred from 2020 due to the first Covid-19 lockdown. The date has been chosen due to its proximity to Brian's birthday, 25 March (Lady Day). The lecture will start at 2.30pm.
In the light of continuing lockdown restrictions on public gatherings, this will be a virtual event held via Zoom.
To mark the inauguration of the Professor Brian Kemp memorial lecture, the Friends of Reading Abbey are pleased to publish a transcription of a paper on The Royal Abbey of Reading which Professor Kemp delivered to the XXIInd Colloquium of the International Reynard Society, held in Reading in July 2017: The Royal Abbey of Reading.
Dr Adrian Ailes
Thurs. 22nd April 2021Graham Horn, the Reading-based Blue Badge Guide, will give a talk on The Kennet and Avon Canal, starting at 7.30pm. This will be a virtual event held via Zoom.
 Graham Horn
8th Dec. 2020 - 3rd Jan. 2021At last an event that you can attend in person. A festive trail full of sparkles and illuminations leading you through the Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins is to be held over the forthcoming Christmas and New Year period, each evening from 4pm.
To maintain Covid safety, attendance is by ticket only and tickets must be pre-booked. Details of the event and how to book can be seen at  Whatsonreading : Reading Twilight Trail.   Also see Berzerk Productions' photos of the event preview on Facebook.
Thurs. 10th Dec. 2020Local historian and Friend Lindsay Mullaney has agreed to deliver a lecture via Zoom on The Hand of St James, on Thursday 10 December, at 7.30pm. The Hand of St James was one of the most important relics in England in the High Middle Ages, and the inspiration for pilgrims to come to Reading Abbey to see it. The miracles associated with The Hand were a subject of interest to our late President, Professor Brian Kemp, and his last publication, Reading Abbey Records: a New Miscellany includes commentary on and translations from the Latin text on 27 miracles.
In the week of the event, the Friends' secretary will send out a Zoom invite to all members with an email contact, and they will be welcome to join and listen. If anyone who is not a member of the Friends would like to hear the Zoom lecture, please send an email to request an invitation to the secretary at: ( secretary ).
Lindsay Mullaney
Sat. 24th Oct. 2020In the light of continuing lockdown restrictions on public gatherings, we have come to the reluctant decision that it will not be feasible - or wise - to hold a 'live' Annual General Meeting this year. Instead we will hold a virtual AGM, through Zoom, which we believe will enable more members to be involved, without leaving home.
Further details about how this will work will be circulated in early October. However, the time will be the same:- 2.30pm on Saturday 24 October. By necessity, access to the AGM will be electronic, through a compatible device. Given the size of our membership, it will not be practical to send invitations to every member, and instead in early October we will invite you to indicate whether you wish to be sent a Zoom invite.
The focus of the AGM will be on transacting the business that we need to do. This is approving the end-of-year accounts and agreeing the membership fee for 2020-21, and electing the officers and committee for 2020-21.
It follows from this that our October public lecture will be postponed, until our AGM in 2021. This was to have been given, and will now be given in October 2021, by Dr Joanna Laynesmith, on Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
The Down at the Abbey Festival "following the success of the first year, are excited to be returning to the historic and beautiful Reading Abbey Ruins" for a second time. More information is on their Facebook page.    *** Please note: As can be seen from the Facebook page, the festival has been postponed to Sept. 2021 ***
Fri. 20th Mar. 2020 The Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture due to be held on Friday 20 March 2020 was cancelled due to Government advice to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Adrian Ailes