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Reading Abbey was mainly destroyed in 1538
Reading Abbey Gate
Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121

Repairing the Reading Abbey ruins is an important priority for the newly-formed Reading council, but at present it remains closed to community groups.

The Abbey ruins have been sealed off since 2009, and in February the Gate was also closed off because it was deemed unsafe.

But why is it that Reading Abbey, the resting place of Henry I, has turned to ruins?

Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121, due to its location.

The Abbey was conveniently close to the Thames and the Kennet.

When Henry I died in Lyons-la-Forêt, Normandy in 1135 his body was returned to Reading, and was buried in the front of the altar of the then incomplete abbey.

Other royal persons buried in the abbey include Empress Matilda, William of Poitiers and Constance of York.

Because of its royal patronage, the abbey was one of the pilgrimage centres of medieval England, and one of its richest and most important religious houses.

Reading Abbey was frequently visited by kings and others, most especially by Henry III who often visited three or four times a year staying several weeks on each visit.

Henry VIII
The abbey was part destroyed during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The last abbot, Hugh Cook Faringdon, was subsequently tried and convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the Abbey Church.

After this, the buildings of the abbey were extensively robbed, with lead, glass and facing stones removed for reuse elsewhere.

St James' Roman Catholic Church was built on a portion of the site of the abbey between 1837 and 1840.

Its founder was James Wheble, who owned land in the area at that time. Reading Gaol was built in 1844 on the eastern portion of the abbey site, replacing a small county Gaol on the same site.

James Wheble sold the rest of his portion of the abbey site to Reading Corporation to create the Forbury Gardens, which were opened in 1861.

However, the ruins, exposed to the open air since Henry VIII carried out his Dissolution of the Monasteries, continue to need extensive repairs.

Councillor Tom Stanway, lead member of Reading Council for culture and sport said there were "severe problems" with the Abbey site.

"There's been lots of ad hoc repairs over many years to the ruins, and that's actually one of the causes of the problems we have at the moment," he said.

"We've done repairs in the past they haven't been done to the standard they should have been, and that's exacerbating the problems we have had recently."

Cllr Stanway said the reason the ruins were in such a bad state was in part due to Henry VIII.

"What he did was he took away all the facing stones and left us the core of the building, which was never designed to experience the great British weather," he said.

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