Reading Central Library now stands on what was the Abbey Stables. It was far enough away from the rest of the abbey so that the noise and smells did not disturb the monks. It was a large building that could house at least thirty horses. Some of the foundations still lie beneath the library.

Digging Deeper - archaeology of the abbey stables

In 1983 archaeologists took the opportunity to excavate the foundations of the abbey stables before the construction of the Central Library. The stables were a long thin structure located in the south west corner of the abbey precinct parallel to the Holy Brook. They survived the dissolution of the abbey as part of the Tudor royal residence within the former Abbot's lodgings. They are shown on Speed's map of 1610 as the 'Queen's Stables'.

The archaeologists found two phases of building. The first phase dated from the late 12th or early 13th century. This building was gutted by fire probably about the time of the dissolution and rebuilt on the original flint and mortar foundations. The demolition rubble contained carved, painted and gilded stonework from the abbey, some of which can be seen in the Story of Reading Gallery at Reading Museum. The roof of the first building was supported by a central row of wooden posts, while the second building had two rows of wooden pillars. The building was about 10m wide and records show it was about 50m long. The stables at Kenilworth Castle give a good idea of what the abbey stables may have looked like.

The western part of the stables is a Scheduled Monument and is protected underneath the children's library.

Kenilworth Castle stables
Kenilworth Castle stables built in 1553 are very similar in size to Queen Elizabeth's stables at Reading
part of a decorated capital
Part of a gilded decorated capital found at the abbey stables (museum object no. 1984.34.sf47.7)

By 1800 the stables site was occupied by a small lane called 'Hookers Green', showing how the area had declined in status after the abbey's dissolution to a less salubrious backwater. This changed in the 1830s with the construction of King's Road and the renaming of the lane as the more upmarket Abbey Square! The area became home to businesses like Sutton Seeds and the warehouse of  J and C Cocks who made the famous Reading Sauce and other condiments.

part of a large column with red paint
Part of a large column with red paint found at the abbey stables (museum no. 1984.34.sf47.24)