History in Structure

Reading Abbey Ruins

A Grade I Listed Building in Abbey, Reading

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.4564 / 51°27'22"N

Longitude: -0.9651 / 0°57'54"W

OS Eastings: 472002

OS Northings: 173549

OS Grid: SU720735

Mapcode National: GBR QNF.9C

Mapcode Global: VHDWT.7N4F

Plus Code: 9C3XF24M+GX

Entry Name: Reading Abbey Ruins

Listing Date: 22 March 1957

Last Amended: 14 December 1978

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1113477

English Heritage Legacy ID: 38934

ID on this website: 101113477

Location: Reading, Berkshire, RG1

County: Reading

Electoral Ward/Division: Abbey

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Reading

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Berkshire

Church of England Parish: Reading St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Tagged with: Norman architecture Abbey Church ruin

Find accommodation in


SU 7173 NE

SU 7273

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

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.