Reading Abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I, youngest son of William the Conqueror. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial, and although he died in France, he was buried in Reading before the Abbey’s High Altar in 1136.
In its heyday, the Abbey was one of the largest monastic sites in Europe. It was closed in 1539 as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and it suffered greatly in the following years. The Ruins that survive were re-opened to the public in 2018 following major conservation work.
One of the original Abbey gateways survived and has also been conserved. In 1785, as part of its subsequent life as a girls’ boarding school, it was home to 10-year old Jane Austen. Nowadays, it is a part of the experience offered by Reading Museum, serving as a Victorian Schoolroom experience. The neighbouring former Victorian prison is best known for its most famous inmate - Oscar Wilde.
The flagship celebration event will be Abbey 900 at Water Fest on Saturday 19th June, find out more and book your free tickets.
When to visit
The Ruins are open every day from dawn to dusk. Many people enjoy a self-guided visit to the Ruins. Pick up a leaflet from Reading Museum, which should be the start of your visit, and look round the Story of Reading Galleries to find out more before you explore. There are also information panels dotted around the Abbey Quarter and Abbey Ruins. Reading Museum also organises Group Visits.