Reading Abbey Revealed

  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services
  • © Reading Borough Council
  • © Hampshire County Council Property Services

Application Type

AABC Conservation

Level of Award

Highly Commended

Region

South East

Local Authority Area

Reading

Information about this scheme

The Reading Abbey Revealed project has contributed significantly towards the town’s Abbey Quarter by delivering new street signage features and urgently needed conservation work on the Abbey Ruins and Gatehouse.

The project has restored the structures to a level where they can now be used and appreciated by the public for years to come. Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I. When he died in 1136 it was sufficiently complete for him to be buried in the abbey church which was eventually consecrated in 1164. Building continued, culminating in the construction of the lady chapel in 1314. Henry VIII dissolved the abbey in 1539 when the last Abbot of Reading, Hugh Farringdon, refused to surrender the abbey to the King and was condemned to death for treason. The buildings were stripped of their facing stones and partly demolished in the 1550s with further damage suffered during the Civil War. The Gatehouse alone survived and is famous for later housing the Reading Ladies’ Boarding School attended by the novelist Jane Austen in 1785.

The scheme has three distinct elements: interpretation, way-finding and engagement, the conservation of the ruins and the refurbishment of the Abbey Gate. A series of pedestrian routes from strategic points in the town centre such as the station and the Oracle shopping centre into the Abbey Quarter have been created. Reading Museum’s collection of Abbey artefacts has been incorporated into a new gallery telling the story of the town. There has been extensive Community Engagement on the project, including the use of local labour and sub- contractors, public site visits and regular exposure on social media.

The surviving Abbey ruins have been conserved and made safe and the site has been re-landscaped including new interpretation features. The Abbey Gate, out of use for eight years, has been re- roofed and generally renovated and adapted to suit its new museum and education role.

Credits

Applicant

Reading Borough Council

Architect

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Client

Reading Borough Council

Conservation Architect

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Main Contractor

CRL Restoration Ltd

Sub-Contractor

Cliveden Conservation Ltd

Project Manager

Reading Borough Council

Landscape Architect

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Quantity Surveyor

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Quantity Surveyor

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Services Engineer

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Services Engineer

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Structural Engineer

Hampshire County Council Property Services

Archaeologist

Rydale Archaeology Services

Heritage Interpretation & Exhibition Design

Equal Studio

Primary Use Class

Class E1 - Public Realm