A key part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project is conserving the remains of Reading Abbey so that they can be re-opened to the public. In February 2017 CRL Restoration were appointed as our principal contractors. They in turn appointed Cliveden Conservation as specialist sub-contractors to work specifically on the Abbey Ruins.

There are three main elements to the conservation of the Abbey Ruins:

  1. Re-pointing of existing masonry - Using the ancient, but revived technique of hot-mixed lime mortar, our conservation team are re-pointing the existing masonry to secure the flint and to prevent pieces falling out in the future.
  2. Restore fallen flint where possible and necessary - Since Reading Abbey closed in 2009 a vast amount of flint has fallen from its walls. Through detailed stone-loss monitoring we have kept track of areas that have suffered worst. We are able to restore some of this fallen flint, and in some areas it is a necessary part of maintaining stability.
  3. Cap the tops of the walls - The deteriorating condition of Reading Abbey has mostly been due to water entering the core of the walls. Today's standing remains are the flint and lime mortar rubble centre of the original walls that were never intended to be exposed to the weather. Trial repairs highlighted that a sedum capping would be most effective. The sedum seeded in turf will absorb the majority of rain water, preventing it entering the core of the wall.

Work has already been completed on the south transept including the founder's chapel, the chapter house and most of the refectory wall. The masons are currently working on the dormitory.

Within the Abbey Gateway there has also been considerable water damage. A new roof covering has solved this issue. High level stonework has been repaired especially on the turrets and parapets. Asbestos has been removed and the inside of the gate has been updated and reconfigured to allow for a better use of the space by Reading Museum.

The conservation of the Ruins and Gateway is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Reading Council. Historic England is funding the conservation of the refectory wall.

stonemason recarving Henry I memorial plaque
Stonemason recarving the Henry I memorial plaque in 2018

Ongoing conservation plans

Even after the current major conservation work is completed in spring 2018 there will always be a need to regularly monitor and maintain the Abbey Ruins and Gateway. As part of the current Reading Abbey Revealed project our architects will produce a 20 year management and maintenance plan identifying what surveys and routine maintenance will be required every year. These routine works will then be scheduled to take place annually after the worse of the winter weather and before invasive plants such as buddleia take root in spring. 

Time-lapse Footage

We have been setting up time-lapse cameras in various locations across the conservation site. We will update this page as the project progresses and more footage comes in.

Conservation: South Transept and Treasury