Friday, 17 September 2021

Hidden Abbey Stones Project

THIS is a new venture which aims to learn more about the lost and hidden stones of Reading Abbey that were removed following its dissolution in 1538. Many of the stones that once formed the abbey still exist today, having been built into walls or houses or unknowingly becoming part of rockeries and flowerbeds.

The project group hopes that by studying the composition and decorative style of many of these stones, it will be able to reveal not just aspects of the abbey’s architecture, but also its life, musical tradition, art and even the changing social and religious attitudes of the nation.

A meeting will take place at St James’s Church in The Forbury tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm with contributions from the Rt Rev Geoffrey Scott, Abbot of Douai Abbey, Toby Davies, of Reading Between The lines, Dr Kevin Hayward, of Reading University, and John Mullaney, who co-founded the project.

Entry is free but by ticket which can be obtained by visiting

Sarah Hacker, lead councillor for culture at Reading Borough Council and a member of the project’s steering group, says: “Many people across the town may have stones that once formed part of Reading Abbey in their gardens but simply don’t realise they own a part of Reading’s history.

“The public meeting is a brilliant opportunity for residents to learn more about the project and the materials that were once part of one of the most important religious buildings in Europe.”

The Hidden Abbey Stone Project involves Reading Borough Council, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth and the Ministry of Justice, as the principal public landowners in the Abbey Quarter site, together with the Friends of Reading Abbey, Darlow Smithson Productions and Philippa Langley, of Little Marilyn Productions. It won a Reading Cultural Award in June.

Henry I, youngest son of William the Conqueror, founded Reading Abbey in 1121 intending it to be his burial place.

He died in Normandy in December 1135 and was brought back for burial in January 1136.

The tomb did not survive the destruction of the abbey after the dissolution in 1539.

During 19th century archaeological investigations, a piece of carved stone was discovered, re-used in the abbey’s precinct wall.

This may be part of a 12th-century sarcophagus.

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