Reading Gaol, The Abbey, Watlington House

Reading Gaol

The Ministry of Justice announced the closure of Reading Gaol ( HM Prison Reading) at the end of 2013.  Reading Council has been working with others to find a way to secure its future and the site has now been purchased by the Ziran Education Foundation.

The Council has published a development framework which may be accessed via the link; READING PRISON Outline-Development-Framework-Reading-Prison-Adopted-March20151.

Members of Reading Civic Society took part in a Reading Prison Visioning Day in July 2016.  This was led by Prof Farrelly ( Head of the School of Architecture), Matthew Williams ( Reading Museum) Cllr Page, MoJ, HE and local businesses.  Many ideas were developed but next steps are awaited.   A report on the event was published by the university . Reading Prison Visioning Day 2016

In Autumn 2016 the prison was opened up as part of Reading’s Year of Culture as a successful artistic and theatrical venue “Inside: Writers and Artists in Reading Prison” run by Artangel.

Society members have taken part in a study of various venues for a replacement for The Hexagon Theatre, the prison was one of those venues.  A report was published in January 2016.  In late 2017 it was reported in the local press that work to investigate its potential for use as Theatre/ Arts continues quietly with the financial support of the the owner of the Reading Festival.

The WIKI page may be reached Here

The Berkshire Record Office page on the prison may be reached Here

Reading’s Hidden Abbey Project

This project involves using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to locate the boundaries of the Abbey Church in its current modern setting. It was set up by the three landowners covering the Abbey church – the Borough Council (Forbury Gardens), the RC Diocese of Portsmouth (St James church precinct) and the Ministry of Justice (Reading gaol), who have promoted the GPR survey of the church below ground, as a parallel exercise to the Council’s Reading Abbey Revealed project to conserve the Abbey Ruins above ground.

The GPR surveys were undertaken by Stratascan, in June 2016, and attracted considerable media interest. The Council’s detailed press release on what the report shows, is headed, A Significant Next Step Towards Revealing King Henry I’s Hidden Abbey.

WERE BODIES Discovered during the survey?

Inevitably bodies have been discovered in the grounds of the prison.  Some of them were known to be there as the bodies of executed prisoners were buried in the grounds.  Bodies of monks may also be expected to be found.  As for anyone significant, such as a former King, well it has just been too quiet.  So don’t get your hopes too high.

Restoring the Ruins of Reading Abbey

On 24 January 2017 it was announced that a contractor CRL Restoration, had been appointed to undertake the work which started on site in  February 2017.

On 13 February 2018 it was announced that the restored ruins will re-open on 16th June 2018.

The Reading Abbey Stone

Local historian John Mullaney has published a book about the Reading Abbey Stone, which was discovered in the Abbey chancel during excavations in 1835 and now forms the font in St James church. The book is £9 a copy.

Watlington House

One of Reading’s oldest buildings dating back to 1500 and Grade II* Listed.  It exists to serve other charities, by which we mean that other charities and local Community groups who are able to make full use of our facilities – this could be renting office space, or using the hall in the rear garden.  Watlington House