Visit the Reading Abbey Quarter and learn about its fascinating 900 years of history. Discover the history of Reading's royal abbey through objects at Reading Museum in the permanent Reading Abbey display and other galleries. Explore the layers of history in the Abbey Quarter or even see conservation in action at the Abbey Ruins.
The Reading Abbey Ruins are currently closed to the public whilst vital conservation work is completed. The Ruins can still be viewed from various points around the perimeter during this period.
Although the Ruins of Reading Abbey are currently closed for conservation until summer 2018, many parts are still visible from surrounding public paths. Take a walk and experience the former scale of this royal Abbey. If you visit during the week you may even see the conservation team working on protecting the ruins so that they can be re-opened.
There are remains of the south transept (the arms that project at right angles from the church, forming a cross shape), the treasury, the chapter house (where the monks all met together), the dormitory and the refectory (the dining room).
You can also see the mill arch over the Holy Brook. This is the only remaining part of what was once the mill for Reading Abbey. The mill was in use until the twentieth century! You can find it just off Abbey Street, behind ‘The Blade’ office building.
The Gateway overlooking the Forbury Gardens is a substantial part of what remains of Reading Abbey. This Gateway divided the public area of the Abbey grounds (what is now Forbury Gardens) and the private area where the rest of the ruins are. The Gateway is also currently being restored and work will finish in early 2018.
The Abbey Gateway was once part of the Reading Girls School. This was famously attended by Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra.
In 1861 the Gateway collapsed in a gale, shortly after funds had been raised for vital conservation. Instead the Gate had to be substantially rebuilt. This work was completed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, a Victorian architect known for his Gothic Revival work. He also designed Reading Gaol within the Abbey Quarter.
The first gallery at Reading Museum is ‘Reading: People and Place’ and it explores the town’s history from its sixth-century origins.
Within the Gallery is a permanent display on Reading Abbey. Here you can learn about the varied history of the Abbey and see priceless objects associated to the Abbey Quarter. You can also experience a partial reconstruction of the Reading Abbey cloister, using some of the original Romanesque stonework. The Gallery is being redeveloped during 2017 so some areas may be inaccessible while works take place to improve the displays.
King Henry I, founder of Reading Abbey, was the youngest son of William the Conqueror. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events of the Norman conquest of England, ending with the decisive Battle of Hastings.
The Tapestry is a significant part of British history and at Reading Museum we have the only full-size copy of this famous artefact.
In the Bayeux Gallery you can learn about Henry I’s father’s successful invasion of England and see some of the remaining decorative stone from Reading Abbey.
The Window Gallery displays some of Reading Museum’s varied collection of sculpture and decorative art.
Visit the gallery to see exquisite examples of early twelfth-century Romanesque stones from Reading Abbey. These stones would have been in the Abbey cloisters. They are of international significance due to their style.