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Reading Abbey Ruins conservation work progressing

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WORK has begun in earnest this month to conserve the Reading Abbey Ruins.

The Council’s main contractor, CRL Restoration, who specialise in the restoration, conservation and refurbishment of historic, period and modern structures, commenced works on site on Monday 13th February.

CRL Restoration have started erecting the necessary scaffolding in the Abbey Ruins. The conservation work will now commence in early March and will be carried out in four phases. Work to adjust the safety scaffold on the Abbey Gateway into a working scaffold will begin after the Reading Half Marathon (19th March).

Running in parallel to the conservation work, museum staff are planning the installation of temporary interpretation to inform the public of the work being carried out and the history of the Abbey Quarter, including a special temporary ‘Abbey Quarter: Then and Now’ exhibition that opens in May at Reading Museum. They have a varied events programme planned, providing opportunities to volunteer, learn and enjoy the Abbey Quarter.

Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Culture, said:

“I’m delighted work has begun this month and we are even closer to fulfilling the long-standing ambition to open the Abbey up fully to the public, alongside an exciting programme of events and activities. I’m looking forward to following the work as it progresses this year.”

Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“It is fantastic to see the work we’ve been anticipating, begin in earnest this month. Reading’s heritage deserves to be celebrated, as does a site of such historical significance in the heart of Reading. By opening it up to residents and visitors the Council hopes many more people will have the opportunity to appreciate the Abbey and its history.”

Kevin Jones, Senior Conservation Manager of CRL Restoration, said:

“We are excited to be part of the Reading Abbey Revealed Project and to be working with Reading Borough Council, HLF and Historic England. Work is progressing well, with the installation of the scaffolding going to plan and the actual conservation work will begin in March.”

Stuart McLeod, 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. Our National Lottery investment to stabilise the ruins and open them to the public for the first time since 2009 will help people to rediscover the fantastic heritage on their doorstep.”

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.