Visit the Reading Abbey Quarter and learn about its fascinating 900 years of history. The Abbey Quarter covers the former precinct of one of Europe's largest royal monasteries. We recommend starting your visit by discovering the history of Reading's royal abbey and the Norman conquest at Reading Museum. Then explore the layers of history with a stroll around the Quarter.
The Reading Abbey Ruins are currently closed to the public until vital conservation work is completed in summer 2018. The Ruins can still be viewed from various points around the perimeter during this period from where you can see conservation work in action.
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 in 1066.
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.
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. See a photograph of the arch taken in 1963 before it was exposed
A short stroll along Chestnut Walk is the Oscar Wilde Memorial walk in the shadow Reading Gaol's walls and a further 5 minutes along the towpath is our small Riverside Museum, open from April to October.
A Chapter House was a multi-purpose room that served as the meeting place for the community of monks at Reading Abbey. This impressive space is the most complete room within the Abbey Ruins. The Chapter House is currently closed for conservation, but you can glimpse it from the gardens behind the Abbot's House offices in Abbot's Walk.
The Grade I listed 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.
These are a fine example of Victorian public gardens created in 1856 in the eastern half of the Forbury, the former outer precinct of the Abbey. You can enjoy the paths, flower beds, fountain and Forbury Hill that were laid out by Reading Corporation. The gardens were linked to the Abbey Ruins by a short tunnel incorporating carved stones from the Abbey unearthed during the tunnel's excavation. This will once again link the gardens and Ruins when conservation work is completed in 2018.
In 1860 the western half the Forbury was acquired and ten years later formally incorporated into the gardens. The enormous Maiwand Lion memorial was added in 1886 to commemorate the men of the 66th Berkshire Regiment that died at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880. The beautiful gardens were faithfully restored by Reading Council in 2006 and host music and events throughout the year.
This Gallery is currently being redeveloped and reopens in February 2018 to tell the story of Reading and its royal abbey, so some areas will be inaccessible while works take place to improve the displays. This is part of our Reading Abbey Revealed project, you can find out more about our interpretation plans on this page.
In the finished gallery you will learn about the varied history of the Abbey and see priceless objects associated to the Abbey Quarter, including a partial reconstruction of the Reading Abbey cloister, using some of the original Romanesque stonework.