Reading Museum Celebrates Launch of New Abbey Gallery

New Abbey Gallery ©Reading Museum/Reading Council
New Abbey Gallery ©Reading Museum/Reading Council

IN the exciting count down to the opening of Reading Abbey this year, Reading Museum is delighted to reveal its newest Abbey themed gallery.

The new, permanent display about Reading Abbey and its relationship with the town opens to the public on Monday 12th February.

The Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams, will officially open the new gallery on Monday morning. An exciting part of the launch ceremony will be the announcement of the exact open date of the Abbey Ruins this year.

The Abbey gallery will be open to the public from 10am.

The fascinating new display begins with objects highlighting the town’s history before the Abbey was established. It then focuses on the history of the Abbey leading up to its closure in 1539.

Families can also look forward to a fun filled week of Abbey themed activities taking place every day between 12th to 16th February (as part of the museum’s half term programme) to celebrate the gallery re-opening. Visit www.readingmuseum.org.uk/museum/whats-on for details of times and prices.

The gallery launch is the first in a series of major openings as part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project, with the Abbey Gateway complete in April and the much anticipated reopening of Reading’s oldest gem, the Abbey Ruins, in June, following a three year, £3.15 million conservation project.

The gallery represents the starting point for visitors to explore the Abbey Quarter and discover the wider interpretation of the area that opens in summer.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’m delighted the new Abbey Gallery is complete and ready to open. Not only does the new gallery provide a historical context to the wider Abbey project, it also heralds the other major openings for the Reading Abbey Revealed project later this year.

“In the Abbey Quarter, Reading boasts a site of national significance. 2018 is going to be an incredibly exciting year for the town. This long anticipated project to preserve the ruins and gate for future generations is finally coming to fruition.

“I would like to encourage residents to visit the new gallery and learn more about an important part of the heritage of the town. There is also a fun packed week to look forward to celebrating the gallery launch at the museum – with Abbey themed activities for the whole family to enjoy. Make sure you come along and join in!”

The new display has carefully developed ideas that were suggested during a popular public consultation, including highlighting the scale and the importance of the Abbey as well as daily life for its inhabitants.

A second phase to the gallery will be developed later in 2018 and will tell the history of town post 1700.

Both the display and Reading Museum are free to visit. For more information, visit www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk and www.readingmuseum.org.uk

Ends

Notes

Photo opportunity: Members of the media are invited to a photo call at 9am at Reading Museum. The Mayor of Reading, Cllr Rose Williams will open the new gallery with a ribbon cutting. There will also be the announcement of the exact Abbey Ruins opening date.

Activities on offer at Reading Museum from 12th – 16th February:

  • an Abbey Trail (12th -16th  February),
  • an Abbey Family Fun-day with virtual reality headsets, meet a medieval monk, crafts and more (Tuesday 13th February),
  • Make & Take: Medieval Tile Decorating (Wednesday 14th February),
  • Make a bejewelled Medieval Goblet and take home our non-alcoholic mead recipe (Thursday 15th February) and
  • a free gallery tour on Saturday 16th February.

No need to book – just drop in. Please be aware there is limited capacity for activities in the museum and drop-ins are very popular.

Visit  www.readingmuseum.org.uk/museum/whats-on for details of times and prices.

About the Abbey Gallery

The existing reconstruction of the Abbey cloister has been refurbished to better highlight the many original beautifully carved Romanesque stones in the collection and a full-scale replica column and arch has been added and painted in white, red and black to show how bright and bold the inside of the abbey was in 12th century. These colours are known from other Norman churches and also recorded on stones found at the Abbey.

Many of those who answered the museum’s consultation felt that the previous display on the Abbey didn’t explain its enormous scale, nor its international importance. Many also felt that the quality of the Abbey objects in the Reading Museum collection was not being emphasised. As a result the new display focuses on key objects from the Museum’s collections and highlights the scale and the importance of the Abbey.

Other themes within the display that came out of the consultation include daily life in the Abbey, the Abbey’s relationship with the town, and terminology and how this relates to what remains of the Abbey today.

The gallery includes a timeline case that shows how people have lived in this part of Thames Valley before Reading was settled by the Saxons for thousands of years; this case will see the return of some of the public’s favourite objects like the Bronze Age torcs from Moulsford and the Syngenta Iron Age coin hoard, as well as archaeological finds that have never been displayed before like a rare stone lamp base discovered near Reading Minster in the 1997 that may have come from Reading’s Saxon nunnery.

The rest of the displays tell the story of Henry I’s foundation of Reading Abbey and its interwoven relationship with Readings development in the middle ages, the improved display will include many Abbey objects including an important 12th century book of religious texts in Latin from the Abbey’s library (in its own special environmental controlled display case), the Abbey wharf diorama, Queen Elizabeth I’s portrait and also many smaller archaeological finds that were not previously on display.

Reading Abbey Revealed

Reading Abbey Revealed is a major project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Reading Borough Council. It will conserve and re-open the remains of Reading Abbey, install new interpretation including information points across the town and the new gallery, and will provide exciting opportunities to get involved through events, volunteering and education.

The Abbey Gateway will be complete in April 2018 with Reading Museum’s popular Victorian Schoolroom experience moving into the space in September 2018, and the Abbey ruins will re-open to the public in June 2018.

For up to date information about the exciting work being done on Reading Abbey you can follow the project on Twitter @RdgAbbey or Facebook @ReadingAbbeyQuarter.

More information about the project can be found at www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk

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.

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email victoria.nickless@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 3957