Reading Abbey Ruins


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Reading Abbey Ruins, Forbury Gardens, Reading


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Statutory Address:
Reading Abbey Ruins, Forbury Gardens, Reading

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Reading (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 72002 73549


SU 7173 NE 1/1

SU 7273 7/1

READING Forbury Gardens Reading Abbey Ruins

(Formerly listed under Abbots Walk)



Founded 1121 by Henry I and intended to be England's principal Cluniac House. Extensive precincts stretched from the Plummery Wall (qv) to the Kennet and from St Laurence's (at the west gate) (qv) to the east side of the Gaol (qv). Caen stone, quarry flint and Taynton stone.

From excavation and from what remains it is clear that the Abbey with its apse and apsidal transept chapels was in the mainstream of Norman architecture. It may have been vaulted but insufficient research has been done on this aspect, which would have made it remarkable indeed. The picturesque surviving fragments are a rubble core stripped almost entirely of its facing stone. The remains are principally grouped to the south of St James's R C School. They include portions of the north and south transepts, the chapter-house (which must have resembled that at Durham), the west wall of the Dorter and the rere-dorter.

Fragmentary remains in the Forbury Gardens are listed separately. A further stretch of wall runs towards Abbey Street behind Abbey Wall. For the Gatehouse, Hospitium see separate items. Reading Abbey's importance now lies in the field of Romanesque sculpture. Fragments were disposed as far away as Shiplake, many are still incorporated in walls through-out Reading and several cart-loads of carved stones abound in the Forbury Gardens. The date of the carved fragments is probably not later than 1136 (when Henry I was buried in the chancel) and is more likely to be circa 1130. The best items which have come to light, many excavated in the 1950s and probably from a cloister, are now in Reading Museum (some, including the Coronation of the Virgin, were previously at the V and A where they were on display). The excavated cloister capitals include the earliest known representation of the Coronation of the Virgin and one with two bearded angels. Fragments of decoration include masks, chevron and more especially beakhead, probably its earliest use in England. A large stone with interlace now used as font in St James' RC Church (qv). (Ancient Monuments, Berks No 1).

Listing NGR: SU7199073554


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


British Geological Survey, Strategic Stone Study, accessed 4 February 2020 from
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 3 Berkshire,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 18 Apr 2001
Reference: IOE01/03999/06
Rights: Copyright IoE Ms Pamela Jackson. Source Historic England Archive
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