Reading Abbey

Reading Abbey 900: Collections at Royal Berkshire Archive

2021 marks 900 years of the founding of Reading Abbey. Although the archive of the Abbey was scattered after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the RBA holds a number of items either from the Abbey or relating to it, particularly in the archives of the Corporation of Reading. They reflect aspects of the abbey’s relationship to the town it sat in and in many respects dominated.

This section of the website contains details on those items and has been put together by the RBA in collaboration with the History Department of the University of Reading.

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For current information about the Reading Abbey ruins, visit the Reading Abbey Quarter website.

Background to Reading Abbey

Black and white print of the ruins of Reading Abbey from c.1800.

The ‘burgh’ of Reading existed before the abbey and is described in Domesday Book, along with the king’s rights over the small town. When Henry I founded his impressive abbey and mausoleum, he gave its abbots possession of the royal manor and of lands which had previously belonged to other lords. The abbey had a mint and moneyer of its own, as well as the rights to levy royal and feudal taxes, and to control the lands and properties of the town. However, the townspeople established the right to run some of their own economic affairs through the gild – the forerunner of the Corporation - which had its own hall by 1204. Dealings between the gild, its wealthier members, and the abbey were not always peaceful.

Click through to the next two sections below to find out more:

Part One: Living with the Abbey

Part Two: After the Abbey