The Story of Reading Gallery explores our town's long history since its origins in the 6th century, including the foundation of Reading Abbey by King Henry I in 1121, and the history of the abbey leading up to its closure in 1539. The story then continues with the English Civil War and the development of Victorian industries and the changing face of modern Reading.

Gallery Highlights:

  • Prehistoric gold torcs and coin hoards from Berkshire
  • A full-sized reconstruction of part of the abbey cloister incorporating impressive original Romanesque carvings
  • Original objects from the abbey including a 12th century book from its library and the world's earliest surviving depiction of the coronation of the Virgin Mary
  • Finds from the abbey's leper hospital
  • Experience the sounds and smells of the medieval Reading!
  • A stunning portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, probably commissioned by her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1575
  • 17th century wooden gates from the original Oracle poorhouse
  • Objects from Reading Gaol where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned from 1895 to 1897
  • Find out about Reading's modern history including VC holder Trooper Potts, the 1943 air raid and Jackson's department store
  • Dressing-up costumes inspired by historical figures from Reading's past
  • Create your own Reading Festival fantasy line up!

The gallery is the starting point for visitors to explore the Abbey Quarter. A network of outdoor interpretation panels reveal over 900 years of history and you can see many important buildings and monuments that form part of the Story of Reading.

The Welcome Space

The Welcome Space is the first impression for our visitors as they enter the Museum from reception, designed to help visitors find their way around the galleries and discover what’s on. It is the location of pop-up events and exhibitions, and introduces the Story of Reading Gallery.

'Show and Tell' Community case

This gallery also houses our 'Show and Tell' community case for small-scale temporary displays from our collections or objects loaned by local groups. Please see our Museum Projects page if you belong to a group which would be interested in using the case.

Museum surgery

Museum Surgery takes place every Thursday from 12.00pm to 4.00pm. Visitors can discover more about the collections, or ask for help in identifying interesting objects (NB no valuations can be given).

So much to learn about the area. There is a reproduction of the Reading Abbey in its heyday and lots of artefacts to see and learn about.

Reading Museum visitor