Reading Abbey: Famous Scenes & Events
An Introduction and Index

The Abbot of Reading was a great personage. He was a farmer of broad lands. His Abbey owned estates in eight shires besides Berkshire. He dealt out justice in the King's name. He sat in Parliament as a peer of the Realm. He coined money. From some taxes, his goods were free. He corresponded with bishops and abbots both in England and abroad. He enjoyed a princely revenue. He appointed the parish priests of many churches. Several country mansions, such as those at Bere Court and Bucklebury Grange, were kept up for his use. He was waited upon by forty servants.

So great a man, living in so splendid an habitation, and in a town through which so many people had occasion to pass when travelling about the country from both east to west and north to south , was sure to have many visitors. The hospitality of Reading Abbey was famous and, during all its long history, the Abbey was the resort of kings and nobles. Several times councils and parliaments met in its spacious chapter-house. Indeed, so frequent were these visits, and so rich was the entertainment, that there is little doubt that they were among the causes of the Abbey’s great debt, which it held at one time and which obliged it to borrow money from Italian bankers.

Almost all the kings of England from Henry I to Henry VIII visited Reading Abbey. How many times have their cavalcades passed through the Market Place, and through Compter Gate! Let us try to recall a few of these scenes.

The builders were still busy with the Abbey Church when a solemn event deepened all men's interest in the new Abbey. In 1135, King Henry I, the founder of the Abbey, died in Normandy. The wish of the King was that he might be buried in his own Abbey at Reading. His body was therefore embalmed and wrapped in bulls' hides. From Normandy it was borne, by slow stages, to Reading, and there, before the high altar of his still unfinished church, it was buried. Adeliza, his widow, gave money to the Abbey in order that a lamp might for ever be kept burning before the King's tomb. Thus Reading became the burial-place of a great King.

Such great events continued throughout the medieval period:


Edited from W.M. Childs' "The Story of the Town of Reading" (1905)


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