At the start of the project, the Gatehouse included some fabric of the original medieval structure; however, most of the visible fabric dated from 1861 when it was comprehensively restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
The Abbey Quarter in Central Reading is home to numerous historic features which are recognised as having national, as well as local importance. Two of these features, the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gateway have, over the years, fallen into disrepair, and were the subject of extensive works to restore them.
As part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project, Reading Borough Council (RBC) has a vision to develop and transform Reading’s Abbey Quarter, which encompasses the Abbey Ruins and Abbey Gateway, into a unique historical and cultural destination. After 9 years and thanks to funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund in April of 2018, the Gatehouse was again opened to the general public.
The Abbey was founded in 1121 by King Henry I, where he was buried in 1136, and it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.
The last Abbot of Reading was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1539 near to the Abbey’s gatehouse, which is equally famous for later housing the Abbey School for Girls which was attended by the famous novelist Jane Austen in 1785.
In 2013, a condition survey was carried out which enabled repair and conservation proposals to be drawn up, and 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 and restore and renovate the Gatehouse. Through the council’s match funding of £1.38million into the project, the projects could now go ahead.
In December 2016, a tender was issued to carry out the consolidation, repairs and extensive conservation of the ruins, as well as the restoration, conservation and new works to the Gatehouse. In February 2017 following a conventional open single stage tender process, CRL Restoration was awarded the contract with a value of £1.4million. The overall objective of the contract works was to bring the Gatehouse back into public use.
Scope of works:
- replacement of the lead roof to a stepped profile (incorporating insulation)
- the replacement of internal rain water downpipes & underground storm water drains
- repairs to exterior stone work, windows, and doors
- interior asbestos removal & strip out (including the removal of first floor partitions and a modern staircase)
- the construction of a new replacement staircase
- internal repairs and decoration
- installation of new toilets in the ground floor room & tea-point in the first floor room
- the replacement of mechanical and electrical services (including lighting, power, data infra-structure, hot and cold water services, gas-fired central heating, and electrical heating and ventilation systems)
- external works to two-yard areas (including replacing boundary walls with masonry piers and railings)
The contract for the Gatehouse commenced on site in March 2017 and was completed in April 2018.