Reading Abbey

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Reading Abbey is a large, ruined abbey in the centre of the town of Reading, in the English county of Berkshire. It was founded by Henry I in 1121 "for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William, my father, and of King William, my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife, and all my ancestors and successors".[1]

King Henry I is buried in the abbey grounds.[1]



The abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121. As part of his endowments, he gave the abbey his lands within Reading, along with land at Cholsey. He also arranged for further land in Reading, previously given to Battle Abbey by William the Conqueror, to be transferred to Reading Abbey, in return for some of his land at Appledram in Sussex.[2]

Following its royal foundation, the abbey was established by a party of monks from the French abbey of Cluny, together with monks from the Cluniac priory of St Pancras at Lewes in Sussex. The abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist.[3] The first abbot, in 1123, was Hugh of Amiens[4] who became archbishop of Rouen and was buried in Rouen Cathedral.

According to the twelfth century chronicler William of Malmesbury, the abbey was built on a gravel spur "between the rivers Kennet and Thames, on a spot calculated for the reception of almost all who might have occasion to travel to the more populous cities of England". The adjacent rivers provided convenient transport, and the abbey established wharves on the River Kennet. The Kennet also provided power for the abbey water mills, most of which were established on the Holy Brook, a channel of the Kennet of uncertain origin.[1]

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