King Henry’s Royal Abbey Revealed at Reading’s Water Fest

Abbey Revealed Images

CELEBRATIONS fit for a king will herald the reopening of Reading’s Abbey Ruins on Saturday 16th June at Reading’s Water Fest.

The ‘Abbey Ruins Revealed’ celebration will take place from 11am on Saturday 16th June 2018, following a three year £3.15 million conservation project.

The abbey’s re-opening ceremony, after being closed for almost 10 years, will be a focal point of this year’s Water Fest, Reading’s annual free celebration of the town’s waterways – now in its 29th year – with a host of exciting activities throughout the day.

The much anticipated opening of the recently conserved Grade I listed Reading Abbey Ruins will take place at 11am. Reading’s Mayor, Cllr Debs Edwards and HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley, will officially open the ruins to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Residents and visitors are encouraged to come along and help celebrate this momentous event.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to combine two fantastic Reading events: Water Fest is a much-loved family day out and has been a solid fixture of Reading’s summer for the last 29 years. Combining this with the opening of Reading’s Abbey Ruins, with a whole host of historical themed performances and activities, as well as all the usual Water Fest favourites, makes this a day out not to be missed!”

The whole Abbey Quarter will be transformed to bring its exciting 900 year history to life. There will be entertainment in the Abbey Ruins and across the Forbury Gardens – with the chance to wander around the newly opened ruins and admire the conservation work that has taken place. Characters from the abbey’s past will make an appearance, including King Henry I himself, and visitors can listen out for the haunting sounds of ceremonial bells.

The day will be packed with historic themed activities and historical re-enactments. In the Forbury Gardens, ‘Earl Rivers Regiment of the Foote’ will be bringing the explosive seventeenth century to life  with Civil War military drills and there will be a medieval village, where people can see the 12th Century bought to life with sword fights and weapon displays.

Parades of beautifully decorated canal boats, live music, refreshments, children’s entertainment and craft and community stalls, as well as the much-loved annual duck race, will be on offer at Water Fest between 11am and 5pm, which is organised by Reading Borough Council in partnership with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.

Blue Collar Food Market will be offering delicious street food at their ‘Feastival’ in the Forbury and the whole family can join in with the Jelly’s animal mask making session ready for the Water Fest procession in the afternoon.

There will be a new photo exhibition ‘Hung, drawn and quartered,’ by local photographer Chris Forsey in the Turbine House and after visiting the exhibition, people can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the event, chill out and listen to live music at the Bel & Dragon.

Reading Abbey Revealed is a major project, made possible through £1.77 million funding support thanks to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund and match funding of £1.38million from Reading Borough Council.

Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “I’m delighted the Council’s long-standing ambition to re-open the Abbey Ruins to the public has finally become a reality and combining the event with Reading’s fantastic Water Fest will make for a very fitting celebration of this momentous occasion.

“In the Abbey Quarter, Reading boasts a site of national significance which has now been preserved for future generations to appreciate. This of course, would not be possible without money raised by National Lottery players, and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s recognition of the Reading Abbey Revealed project’s importance. I’d also like to say a big thank you to all those involved in the restoration of this beautiful site, in particular CRL Restoration for all their expert conservation work and a special thank you to the staff and volunteers for supporting both the project and this opening event.”

Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East, said:  “The 900-year-old Reading Abbey ruins and gate provide a visual connection to the important, but little known, role that the city has played in European history since medieval times. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are pleased to have invested in this ambitious project to stabilise the ruins and open them to the public for the first time in almost 10 years. We are delighted to see this investment come to fruition and help the people of Reading rediscover the fantastic heritage on their doorstep.”

Kevin Jones, Head of Conservation at CRL Restoration said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to work with such a passionate and dedicated team from Reading Borough Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the conservation architects from Hampshire County Council. The collaborative approach from all parties has been wonderful, enabling us to deliver a first class project on time, within budget and to the client’s delight. We wish Reading Museum all the best with their new venture in the Abbey Quarter.”

Find out more about this year’s Waterfest at for full detail or pick up a leaflet at the Civic Offices, libraries or leisure centres throughout the borough.

Visit  for further details on the Reading Abbey Revealed opening.



Media opportunity: The media are invited to attend the opening of the ruins at 11am by the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Debs Edwards. If members of the press wish to film / report from the ruins in advance of the official ceremony, access can be arranged from 10am. Contact or call 01189373957 to discuss your attendance.

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 thanks to National Lottery players and 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 has included installing new information points across the town. The accompanying activity programme will continue beyond the Abbey opening until the end of 2020.

People can find out more about the project by visiting the Abbey Quarter’s website  Facebook Page   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.  Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram #HLFsupported.

History of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust

The Kennet and Avon Canal links the Thames at Reading with the sea at Bristol, 87 miles away. Originally built to carry freight, the canal declined in the face of competition from railways and roads. By the 1960s many of the locks were unusable and the waterway was being overgrown by weeds. Closure seemed probable but, thanks to voluntary fundraising and physical effort by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust and their supporters, the canal was gradually restored.  In 1990 through navigation was again possible along the whole canal and Her Majesty the Queen performed a reopening ceremony at Devizes where 29 locks take the waterway down a steep hill.

The Kennet and Avon Canal is now part of the national inland waterway system. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust continues to campaign to maintain and improve the canal for quiet recreation by all kinds of visitors, whether on land or in boats, and to ensure a secure future for this wonderful waterway. The towpath is perfect for short strolls and longer walks and much of it is also part of National Cycle route 4. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust also operates 4 trip boats on the canal, has visitor centres at Aldermaston and Newbury (plus 2 more further west) and runs the historic steam powered beam engines at Crofton, near Bedwyn, which can still pump water into the canal.

Please visit the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust stand at Reading Water Fest and/or our website for more details of ways to enjoy the Kennet and Avon Canal – Reading’s wonderful local waterway.

Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email or call 0118 937 3957