A LOCAL locksmith today handed over the keys to Reading Abbey Gateway.
Steve Underwood of Abbey Gate Locksmiths, a family run company in Reading, has lovingly crafted a beautiful gothic revival lock case to the main entrance door, restored an original lock and cut new keys to the old tower door.
Steve said: “It has been a pleasure to use my craft to make new keys to the old tower lock and to make a new tailor-made lock to the main entrance door, using all my skills as a master locksmith. I founded Abbey Gate Locksmiths 14 years ago and named it after this iconic Reading landmark.”
Steve, who has over 40 years’ experience as a locksmith, had his work cut out in solving the problem of how to create an authentic looking lock that also fulfilled modern standards. The Abbey Gateway’s main entrance lock was completely missing, with only a key hole remaining. This was further complicated because the gateway door is so thick, no modern lock was long enough.
The problem was ingeniously solved by utilising a block of solid beech, recycled metal from an old safe and by soldering three silver cylinders together.
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “Steve has done a fantastic job crafting such a beautiful lock for the Abbey Gateway. The handover of the keys to the gateway is fitting in the countdown to the reopening of the Abbey Ruins on Saturday 16th June.”
Cllr Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Transport and Planning, said: “This well-crafted lock and key are a perfect symbol of the Abbey Gateway’s completion, as well as heralding the opening of the Abbey Ruins in just over two weeks’ time.
“The gateway has a rich and varied history, including its claim to fame as the former classroom of the writer Jane Austen. It will make a great space for the museum’s popular Victorian classroom experience from September.”
Thanks to National Lottery players and a £1.7million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the gateway has benefitted from vital internal refurbishment and roof repairs, with plans for Reading Museum’s popular Victorian Schoolroom experience to move into the space in September 2018.
The ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ celebration will take place from 11am on Saturday 16th June 2018. The re-opening festival coincides with Water Fest, Reading’s annual celebration of the town’s waterways. There will be a host of exciting activities and performances throughout the day, including the chance to meet King Henry I and other historical characters from the Abbey Quarter.
Photos of the new lock are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmkFxawm
The Abbey Gateway will be open for special events, such as history tours, during the summer. For details of availability and how to book, visit www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk/whats-on/abbey-gateway-tour
About the creation of the lock
The main entrance door lock was completely missing with only its key hole remaining. The challenge was to create a lock which would fulfil modern health & safety requirements, provide a small modern key for ease of use and look like an original circa 1800 lock without cutting another key hole through the door.
A block of solid beech was used to house the new lock mechanisms. The modern euro cylinder is actually 3 cylinders silver-soldered together (like a stretch limousine) as the door is so thick and no modern lock was long enough. The steel reinforcing straps are made from recycled metal from an old safe so it has the correct patina. The screw heads have been cut to form a Maltese cross to match other screws in the building. And the modern thumb turn removed and a gothic key-bow silver-soldered into position to give keyless exit.
Find out more about Abbey Gate Locksmiths here: https://abbeygatelocksmiths.co.uk
Reading Abbey Revealed
The Abbey Quarter in central Reading brings together nationally important heritage within the former grounds of Reading Abbey, once one of Europe’s largest royal monasteries. The conservation of the Grade I listed, scheduled Abbey Ruins and Abbey Gateway are central to Reading Council’s vision to transform the Abbey Quarter into a unique historical destination.
Reading Abbey Revealed is a major project, made possible through £1.77 million funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and match funding of £1.38million from Reading Borough Council.
Reading Council appointed CRL Restoration as the main contractor responsible for implementing the conservation side of the Reading Abbey Revealed project in January 2017.
The ambitious scope of the project has conserved the remains of Reading Abbey and the Abbey Gateway, and has provided opportunities through events, volunteering and education. Site-wide interpretation of the Abbey Quarter has included the opening of the new Abbey gallery at Reading Museum and will include installing new information points across the town. The accompanying activity programme will continue beyond the Abbey opening until the end of 2020.
People can keep up to date with the project by visiting the Abbey Quarter’s website www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk Facebook Page www.facebook.com/ReadingAbbeyQuarter or by following them on twitter @RdgAbbey
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.