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Historic England Research Records

Reading Abbey

Hob Uid: 244960
Location :
Reading
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SU7195073540
Summary : The ruined remains of a Benedictine monastery, which was founded 1121 by Henry I and suppressed in 1539 by Henry VIII who used it as a royal house. It was originally intended to be England's finest Cluniac House, but transferred its allegiance to the Benedictines in the midddle of the 12th century. Excavations have discovered the east end of the abbey church and part of the cloisters, but 19th-20th century works have destroyed the west end of the church and the claustral complex. Ruins survive of the church's apsidal end, apsidal chapels and transepts, the chapterhouse and the West wall of the dorter and reredorter. The gate house to the abbey complex survives although this was rebuilt in the 19th century. (See SU 77 SW 125). Dependencies of the abbey were: Leominster, Cholsey Grange, St Mary Magdalene's Hospital and St John the Baptist's Hospital in Reading, and in Scotland, May-Pittenweem and Rindalgros. In 1539, after the dissolution of the abbey Henry VIII converted some of the buildings into a royal great house (probably based around the former abbot's house), which he visited in person as early as 1540. From about 1550 onward some of the remaining ecclesiastical buildings were demolished or partly taken down and the stonework used on bridges in the surrounding borough. In 1570 Queen Elizabeth I had extensive stables built. After the time of Elizabeth I the house began to be neglected. During the English Civil War at the seige of Reading in 1643 part of the ruined building were temporarily fortified by the Royalist troops.
More information : [SU 7200 7355] Abbey [O.E.] (Remains of) (founded 1121) [T.I.]. (1)

Reading Abbey, Benedictine, with an early ill-defined Cluniac connection, founded in 1121 and suppressed in 16th century. Completely ruinous with the exception of a small part incorporated in the Municipal buildings and the gateway in the Forbury. Some remains of the abbey mill exist in the modern Abbey Mill in Abbey Square [SU 7188 7344]. (2-4)

The remains of Reading Abbey are as indicated on 1/2500 plan. Where not incorporated in existing occupied buildings the ruins consist of flint walling to a height of between 8 to 10 metres. For photograph of plan of Abbey before the Dissolution see AO/63/62/3. (5)

Three seasons of excavation, conducted by C F Slade (Reading County Borough), in the areas of the west walk of the cloister and of the supposed abbot's lodging. A patch of worn floor tile, in situ, was found in the cloister area; the other areas revealed 19thc destruction to a considerable depth.

Detailed plans to be lodged with Reading Museum. (6)

During excavations at Reading Abbey between 1971 & 1986 the east end of the Benedictine Abbey Church was found along with two chapels and a Medieval waterfront.Over half the area of the cloister and the west range were totally destroyed by C19th and C20th disturbances (7-18)

Additional bibliography. (19-27)

Source 28 in particular contains information about the use of the site as a royal house, subsequent demolition of "superfluous" ecclesiastical buildings and temporary use of part of the ruins as a fort at the Civil War Seige of Reading in 1643. (28)

Additional bibliography (29-31)

Reading Abbey Ruins (formerly listed under Abbots Walk) Founded 1121by Henry I and intended to be England's principal Cluniac House. Grade I (see list for details) (32)

SU 718736, SU 720734, SU 720736. Reading Abbey Scheduled No 1 (33)

Additional bibliography (34-35)

The exact changes made by Henry VIII in converting the abbey buildings are not clear. (36)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1931
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Medieval religious houses : England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 74
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 237
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 24, 198
Source Number : 12
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 173
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 26, 1982
Source Number : 13
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 208-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 28, 1984
Source Number : 14
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 118
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 31, 1987
Source Number : 15
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : CF Slade
Page(s) : 29-70
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 68, 1975-6
Source Number : 16
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : E Ettlinger
Page(s) : 71-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 68, 1975-6
Source Number : 17
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : AG Vince,PJ Fasham,JW Hawkes
Page(s) : 33-55
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 71, 1981-2
Source Number : 18
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : L Cram,S Read,E Stanford
Page(s) : 106
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 71, 1981-2
Source Number : 19
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Department of Environment Archaeological Excavations 1972 73 (CF Slade)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Department of Environment Archaeological Excavations 1974 71 (DS Stewart)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ministry of Housing and Local Government (1540/11/A, Oct. 1946 & Aug. 1954) p.1
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 9: South Midlands archaeology newsletter
Source details : CF Slade
Page(s) : 19
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2, 1972
Source Number : 22
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 9: South Midlands archaeology newsletter
Source details : CF Slade
Page(s) : 23
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3, 1973
Source Number : 23
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 9: South Midlands archaeology newsletter
Source details : CF Slade
Page(s) : 16
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 1974
Source Number : 24
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 12: Newsletter
Source details : J Hawkes
Page(s) : 11
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : May-84
Source Number : 25
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 12: Newsletter
Source details : CBA Grp 12 N/L Oct 1984 8 (L Cram)
Page(s) : 8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : Oct-84
Source Number : 26
Source : Current archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 307-10
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 93, 1984
Source Number : 27
Source : Current archaeology
Source details : J Hillam
Page(s) : 363
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 107, 1987
Source Number : 28
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2)
Source details :
Page(s) : 220-222
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 29
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : CE Slade
Page(s) : 65-116
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 66, 1971-2
Source Number : 30
Source : Medieval religious houses in England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 74
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : W.Ravenscroft
Page(s) : 05-Oct
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1907
Source Number : 31
Source : Berkshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 198-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 32
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : DOE (HHR) Boro of Reading 1978 83
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 33
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : DOE (IAM) SAMs 1988 7 Berks
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 34
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Watford & SW Herts Arch Soc Bull 36 1982 6
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 35
Source : The Berkshire archaeological journal
Source details : PJ Fasham, JW Hawkes
Page(s) : 78-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 72, 1983-5
Source Number : 36
Source : The royal palaces of Tudor England : architecture and court life
Source details :
Page(s) : 56-57
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JP 16-APR-63
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Ministry of Public Buildings and Works Archaeological Report
Source details :
Page(s) : 36
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1967
Source Number : 7
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 171
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 16, 1972
Source Number : 8
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 153
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 17, 1973
Source Number : 9
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 187-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18, 1974
Source Number : 10
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 223
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21, 1977

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1121
Monument Type : Benedictine Monastery, Church, Abbey, Cloister, Stable, Chapter House, Dormitory, Privy House
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Tudor
Display Date : Converted as royal house 1539-1540
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1539
Monument Type : Great House
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Elizabethan
Display Date : Stable built 1570
Monument End Date : 1570
Monument Start Date : 1570
Monument Type : Stable
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Stuart
Display Date : Civil War use 1643
Monument End Date : 1643
Monument Start Date : 1643
Monument Type : Fortified Building
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : BK 1a
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : BK 1b
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : BK 1c
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 19019
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : HT03074
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : CC97/02839
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 77 SW 19
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 237538
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 244966
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 108146
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1302719
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 245140
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1858-01-01
End Date : 1860-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 77 SW 19
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1963-04-16
End Date : 1963-04-16
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1964-01-01
End Date : 1967-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1971-01-01
End Date : 1971-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1972-01-01
End Date : 1973-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY STABLES
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1976-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY WHARF
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1979-01-01
End Date : 1979-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY WHARF (PHASES I & II)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1981-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY STABLES (READING LIBRARY)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY CLOISTERS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY CLOISTERS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY, PLUMMERY WALL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1990-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ABBEY GARDENS III (FORMERLY TANNERY MEADS)
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ASSIZE COURTS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 21-23 VALPY STREET
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ST MARY'S ABBEY, FORBURY GARDENS
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT ABBEY SQUARE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FORBURY GARDENS RESTORATION PROJECT
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT ABBEY SQUARE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT ABBEY SQUARE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE FORBURY/ABBEY STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, READING ABBEY RUINS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31