Children Celebrate Abbey Themed Takeover Project at Reading Museum

Children with the Mayor

CHILDREN from St John’s Primary C of E Primary School in east Reading celebrated the culmination of a 6 month ‘Takeover’ project at Reading Museum, on Friday 17th November.

Reading Museum has been working with the school’s year six children to follow the restoration of the Abbey Ruins and to find out more about its history as part of the museum’s Reading Abbey Revealed project.

On Friday, which coincided with national Takeover Day, the children reported their findings and presented a video of the work they have produced to the Mayor of Reading, Rose Williams, Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture and other local dignitaries, at an event hosted at the museum.

The children have visited the museum on a number of occasions to look at the restoration in detail and give their opinion on the new signage that will form part of the restored ruins.

The children have enjoyed talks from various members of staff, including the restoration specialists, who demonstrated some of the techniques they were using.  Museum staff have also visited the school to work with the children.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “This project has really engaged the children’s imaginations and highlighted the significance of the Abbey and of Reading. We hope it has ignited their curiosity and that they will continue to learn about the history of their town.”

Mr Bickford, Head of School, St John’s C of E Primary School, said: “The children have been very enthusiastic and excited by this project. It has really helped them to understand the importance of local history and this has contributed to their sense of place in the local community.”


Notes to editor:

Photos from the day available on request.

November 17th is national Takeover Day, a celebration of children and young people’s contributions to museums, galleries, arts organisations, archives and heritage sites. It is a day on which they are given meaningful roles, working alongside staff and volunteers to participate in the life of the museum.

The local takeover event is part the activity programme of Reading Borough Council’s ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ to develop the Abbey Quarter.

To find out more about National Takeover Day visit: or follow @takeovermuseums #TakeoverDay

Reading Abbey Revealed

In December 2015, Reading Borough Council announced its successful £1.77 million bid for Heritage Lottery Fund support for the ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ project. The award meant the Council could finally fulfil its long-standing ambition to re-open the Abbey Ruins to the public. The Council will contribute £1.38million in match funding to the project to reinvigorate Reading’s pre-eminent and nationally important heritage site.

There are plans for an exciting programme of events and educational activities to breathe new life into the Abbey Ruins, which sits alongside an extensive programme of conservation works to the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gateway, which starts this February. Site-wide interpretation of the Abbey Quarter will include a new display at Reading Museum.

The current project timetable is as follows:

·         March 2016: Project starts with the procurement and appointment of the main contractors for the capital conservation and interpretation programmes.

·         February 2017: Work starts on site and will take up to 2 years to complete.

·         20 May 2017: ‘Reading Abbey Quarter: Then and Now’ temporary exhibition opens at Reading Museum.

·         Early/mid 2018: Abbey Gateway reopens for schools and community learning use by Reading Museum

·         Mid/late 2018: the Abbey Ruins fully open to the public, complemented by a programme of events and activities.

·         The successful HLF award means the accompanying activity programme will continue beyond the opening until the end of 2020.

The Abbey Quarter

Reading’s Abbey Quarter has been the traditional civic and ceremonial heart of the county town of Royal Berkshire since the 12th century. The Quarter is defined by the medieval streets and rivers that outline the precinct of Reading Abbey. This area contains the substantial standing remains and buried archaeology of Reading Abbey, telling its story from the foundation by Henry I in 1121 to its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539.

The Quarter shows evidence of all periods since the Abbey’s dissolution: a royal residence, civil war defences, Jane Austen’s school, the impressive municipal buildings, Victorian public gardens and Oscar Wilde’s infamous Reading Gaol. There are buildings by famous architects including Sir John Soane, A.W.N. Pugin, Alfred Waterhouse and Sir George Gilbert Scott. Significant public sculpture within the Quarter includes Simond’s Maiwand Lion and statue of Queen Victoria, and contemporary artworks such as the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk.

Victoria Nickless

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