New Carved head for the Abbey Gateway

HUGH FARINGDON – the last Abbot of Reading, has received just over 40% of the vote in Reading Council’s recent quest to decide on which historical figure would be added to the Abbey Gateway as a carved stone head.

Collected votes

Abbot Hugh received 361 votes out of a total 867 – a clear winner taking the lion’s share of the vote - with the second most voted for option the modern stone mason with 236 votes, followed by 151 votes for Jane Austen.

Winning choice - Hugh Faringdon

Hugh Faringdon

2021 marks the 900th anniversary of the foundation of Reading Abbey, once one of Europe’s largest royal monasteries, by King Henry I. As part of this year’s 900th anniversary celebrations, the Council plans to carve one of the incomplete head-stops that decorate the outside of Reading’s Abbey Gateway.

A shortlist of six figures were put to the public vote in February. The first choice, Hugh Faringdon, was infamously accused of treason by Henry VIII, and publicly hung, drawn, and quartered outside the gateway in 1539. Comments from voters choosing Hugh Faringdon stated their choice would contribute to ‘righting the wrongs of the past’ and that the last Abbot of Reading needs ‘recognition’.

The winning figure will now be carved by Cliveden Conservation and the carving will be unveiled on 19 June 2021 to mark the Abbey’s 900th anniversary.

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “I am pleased to announce Hugh Faringdon as our popular winner!

“What better way for us to create a lasting commemoration for Reading Abbey’s momentous 900th anniversary, than by marking the date with the completion of one of the unfinished head-stop carvings on the Abbey Gateway. Poor Hugh Faringdon met his tortured demise outside the gateway – so, as some voters suggested, perhaps it is right and fitting we give him the lasting recognition of his sacrifice, by including him alongside the likes of King Henry and Empress Matilda.

“Our modern stone mason was also a popular second choice – so who knows, in the future we may be able to look to add her alongside Hugh on the other uncarved headstop.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote and have helped influence a lasting monument to mark this historic year! I am really looking forward to the final unveiling on 19 June.”

Find out more at 2021 - 900th Abbey Anniversary