A key part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project was conserving the remains of Reading Abbey so that they could 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. By May 2018 they had conserved the south transept including the founder's chapel, the chapter house, the refectory wall and the dormitory. The site reopened to the public on 16 June 2018.

There were 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 re-pointed 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 had fallen from its walls. Through detailed stone-loss monitoring we kept track of areas that have suffered worst. We were able to restore some of this fallen flint, and in some areas it was a necessary part of maintaining stability.
  3. Soft capping 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.

Within the Abbey Gateway there had 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 was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Reading Council. Historic England funded 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. 

The conservation of the Reading Abbey Ruins

Conservation of the Reading Abbey Ruins

Timelapse footage of the conservation

Conservation: South Transept and Treasury