Reading Abbey Quarter - The Vision
Abbey Quarter logo
Reading Borough Council's Museum team is developing an exciting plan to transform Reading's Abbey precinct into a unique historical and cultural destination. The Abbey Quarter plans will pull together a number of important historic sites, buildings and structures under a single, co-ordinated approach.
Many of the Quarter's historic features are recognised as having national and local importance, being designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Listed Buildings. Reading Museum's significant collections relating to the Abbey are of international importance and reflect Reading's long history of global links.
The Quarter shows evidence of all periods since the Abbey’s dissolution: a Tudor royal residence, civil war defences, Jane Austen’s school, the impressive municipal buildings, Victorian public gardens and Oscar Wilde’s infamous Reading Gaol. There are buildings by famous architects including Sir John Soane, A.W.N. Pugin, Alfred Waterhouse and Sir George Gilbert Scott. Significant public sculpture within the Quarter includes George Blackall Simonds’ Maiwand Lion and statue of Queen Victoria, and contemporary artworks such as the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk.
The main conservation priorities are the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gateway, both Scheduled Monuments on the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk Register’. In June 2014 the Council secured initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and developed more detailed plans for its Reading Abbey Revealed project that were submitted to the HLF in September 2015. In December 2015 HLF confirmed that our second round application had been successful and work will start on conservation work in January 2017. Separate funding has already improved Town Hall Square in 2013, while work to restore St Laurence's churchyard wall was completed in August 2015.
The project to conserve the Abbey was initiated after public access to the ruins was closed in summer 2009 when a condition survey highlighted the ‘poor and rapidly deteriorating condition of the walls’. Survey work has recently been carried out by specialist building surveyors, taking high-tech images of the ruins. Following a study of these 3D scans, architects have created a detailed picture map of each area to help identify the extent of the conservation required. They have also reviewed the work required on other areas including the Abbey Gateway.
In October 2014, work to install a temporary scaffold roof on the Abbey Gateway was completed. A condition survey on the building in 2013, with support from Historic England, revealed that the current roof was no longer watertight and blocked drainage pipes had led to water damage of the fabric. The temporary roof sits on top of the current roof and is not visible from ground level. This has allowed the building to dry out and prevent any further damage to the Abbey Gate until permanent repairs begin in 2017.
As part of creating a wider strategic framework for Reading's heritage, the Council prepared a draft Heritage Statement. This is provided context and input in the development of Reading's Cultural and Heritage Strategy.
You can also view a short podcast about the Abbey on the Museum's Youtube Channel.
On the other pages in this section you can find out more about our progress on the Reading Abbey Revealed project and how you can get involved.
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Reading Museum's YouTube channel - click here for the Reading Abbey cast