Town church, abbey stones

In the 1550s St Mary's church was repaired and improved using stones, lead, tiles and timber from Reading Abbey. Henry VIII had closed the abbey down in 1539 and the materials were reused all over Reading.

reused-abbey-corbel
A reused stone corbel from Reading Abbey found at the Oracle

Digging deeper - The Oracle

Abbey stones were also used nearby to roof over the Holy Brook, where it runs underground to the Kennet, and at the Oracle, an seventeenth century poorhouse, set up by local businessman John Kendrick to create weaving jobs in the town. You can see the original Oracle gates at Reading Museum.

The Oracle Gates
The Oracle Gate by Joseph Murray Ince 1826
portrait of John Kendrick
John Kendrick, 1632

Archaeologists investigating the site of the Oracle shopping centre in the 1990s, found the remains of a small building from the 12th or 13th century. They think it was a ‘cookhouse’ owned by the abbey, where ordinary people could get a simple hot meal.

reconstruction drawing of the Oracle cookshop
A reconstruction of the Cookshop (Oxford Archaeology)

The road across the churchyard has always been busy. Compare the traffic today with this early twentieth century postcard.

St Marys Butts
St Mary's Butts postcard