Our archaeology collection is extensive and varied, a result of collecting since 1883 from sites in the Thames Valley and around the world. Highlights on display include finds from the Roman town at Silchester, weapons from the Thames Water Collection, and medieval sculpture from Reading’s royal abbey.
The Silchester Collection came from the Roman town of Calleva on the Hampshire/Berkshire border. Most of the items were excavated between 1890 and 1909 and are displayed in the Silchester Gallery. Iconic objects include the Silchester Eagle, the inspiration for Rosemary Sutcliff's books The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch. You can view entire mosaics from Calleva in the Museum’s light-filled Atrium.
You can explore the story of Henry I's royal Reading Abbey through archaeological finds in the Story of Reading Gallery, including a reconstruction of the abbey's cloister arcade. Further unique Romanesque carvings from the abbey, some of the finest in Europe, can be found in the Bayeux Tapestry Gallery and Window Gallery. Find out more about Reading Abbey's history and national importance on the Abbey Quarter website.
Our local archaeological collections reflect the changing lifestyles of the people who have lived in the Reading area for thousands of years, from Stone Age hand axes displayed in the Green Space to English Civil War cannonballs in the Story of Reading Gallery. Reading’s river-related heritage is explored at the nearby Riverside Museum, just a short stroll away through the Abbey Quarter. A medieval oak pit wheel on display there was excavated in 1998 at St Giles Mill, now underneath The Oracle shopping centre. It is the only mill wheel of its kind in existence.
We have many finds from sites in Berkshire and the middle Thames Valley, but now only collect archaeological archives from sites within Reading Borough. You can find out more about our collecting policy and accessing reserve collections on our Collection FAQs page. One of our most important archives are the finds from the Saxon and Norman palace site at Old Windsor.
Went to Museum, and (joy of joys) were shown all over Roman Remains from Silchester by Assistant Curator. Explained everything what a morning! And what a Museum even to Shrewsbury’s!!Wilfred Owen (First World War poet), 31 December 1909