Reading Abbey

One of the unexpected treasures from the Duke of Wellington Tour was seeing the gatehouse of Reading Abbey.

Reading Abbey is a set of ruins in the center of Reading in Berkshire founded by Henry I in 1121. It was destroyed in the 1500s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, but a few buildings remained, including the gatehouse.

The gatehouse is noteworthy in “our” era, because Jane Austen, around ten years old at the time, and her sister Cassandra briefly attended boarding school within its walls. The girls were instructed for only an hour a day in dancing, drawing, French and needlework. In contrast, boys would spend hours studying the classics. Jane’s father took them out of the school after 18 months and Jane never returned to formal schooling again.

Here is a print of the gatehouse around Jane Austen’s time:
This is a photo I took on the trip:

On the facade of the gatehouse were stone faces. Certainly these must have dated back to the early days of the Abbey. Here are a few of them:

Other walls of the ruins of the Abbey were visible, but we could not walk to them. Across the street from the gatehouse was the lovely Forbury Gardens, but that is a topic for another day.

(I certainly hope you are not sick of my Duke of Wellington tour blogs!)

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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6 Responses to Reading Abbey

  1. Sick of them? Never! For a moment, I’m there. Thank you so much for sharing your treasures.

  2. I found out one time when I visited Reading (my home town) that the gatehouse spent most of the nineteenth century as a pile of rubble and was then rebuilt. I think those carvings are in too good shape to be original. Occasionally it is opened to the public but it’s not as though you can tread the same boards Austen did, because they’re long gone.

    • diane says:

      That makes sense, Janet. They were remarkably in good condition.
      The gate house must be in a constant state of renovation! It was being renovated when we were there.

  3. ki pha says:

    How could I get tired of reading about the Duke of Wellington! He’s so fascinating along with all the eras he’s been apart of.

  4. HJ says:

    I will never be tired of hearing about your tour! Given the number of places you went to, and therefore others that you must have seen en route, I hope you have enough photos and information for several months.

    I must be too bookish. Even with the word “Abbey” attached I persisted in seeing the word as “read-ing” (rather than “Red-ing”), and I live in the UK so know it’s a place!

  5. Elena Greene says:

    Thanks for this post and keep them coming as long as you have pictures and details to share!

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