The Friends of Reading Abbey Lectures & Events

Meetings are held twice yearly in Reading, on Friday evenings at 7.30pm or Saturday afternoons at 2.30pm,
when lectures are given by specialists on the life of the Abbey and on the most recent developments.
Black print denotes Friends events or with a Friends presence, and red denotes other events.

¦ Fora 'Walks & Talks' ¦   Please click
¦      for ¦   information.

Date Subject Speaker
Wed. 20th - Sat. 30th July 2022 (not 24th)Progress Theatre in the Ruins: The Reading Progress Theatre are performing Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in the Abbey ruins between 20-30 July (NB except Sunday 24th July). For further information and booking details please visit the Progress Theatre website.
Wed. 3rd Aug. 2022This year we are planning an outing to Abingdon, in conjunction with the Abingdon Abbey Building Trust. This will be a coach trip, leaving at 10.00am and returning between 5.00pm and 6.00pm. The focus will be on Abingdon Abbey and related buildings, including St Nicolas Church and the Guildhall. We hope the day will be able to take in other buildings of historic interest in Abingdon, including the County Hall (also Abingdon Museum), St Helen's Church and the nearby Almshouses.
Programme for the day.    If interested, please email the Friends' secretary: (mailto: secretary).
Sat. 6th August 2022Berkshire Heritage Online Fair. This is an innovative event being organised by the Berkshire Family History Society and the Berkshire Local History Association, to build on our COVID lockdown experience of on-line meetings to run the first-ever virtual Heritage Fair for Berkshire. Anybody can access the Fair via Zoom.
The Friends of Reading Abbey is one of 30 local heritage organisations which will be taking part, with our own breakout room. The Fair will be run in two separate sessions, from 10am to noon, and 2pm to 4pm.
Attendance is free, and open to all interested people - whether you live in Berkshire, UK or Berkshire County, Massachusetts, or anywhere else in the world - but booking is essential to attend. The link to book is on the Berkshire Family history website at As can be seen from the page, help will be available, including for those not familiar with use of the Zoom application.
A number of committee members will be trying to run the Friends breakout room! It could be worth zooming in just to see how we get on.
Wed. 17th - Sat. 20th August 2022Summer Screens presents... Reading Open Air Cinema in the Abbey Ruins, four films on consecutive nights.
For details and booking please see Summer Screens
.    NB All Summer Screens showings have been cancelled.
Sat. 10th Sept. 2022Down at the Abbey Music Festival: the early autumn independent music festival returns to the Abbey Ruins, to coincide with Heritage Open Days (HODS) Weekend.      Festival website
NB  The Down at the Abbey festival has been cancelled in 2022. The festival website now shows arrangements for the 2023 event on 9th September.
Sat. 29th Oct. 2022AGM and Autumn Lecture: the AGM will be followed by a lecture by Chris Darbyshire, local author, on Reading's Last Abbot: Hugh Cook Faringdon, whose biography he published in 2018 (Scallop Shell Press). The AGM will start at 2.30pm, venue to be confirmed.Chris Darbyshire
Recent events
Sun. 24th July 2022Informal event in Caversham Court Gardens. The Friends will be setting up a display alongside the Friends of Reading Museum. We will be joining in with the Ways and Means Trust who are running their dog show "Canine Capers". So come along and see the displays, chat to us and enjoy watching the various dog pageants. The show will run from 12 noon to approx. 1.30pm. Refreshments available at the Tea Kiosk. More information about the dog show at Canine Capers.    Ways and Means Trust.
Wed. 20th July 2022In the Zoom talk given on 27 January 2022, Robin Dorkings of the Con-Fraternity of St James spoke about the Camino Ingles and in particular the St James Way, the 68-mile pilgrim trail from Reading to Southampton which the Con-Fraternity have developed and are promoting. The Con-Fraternity have kindly agreed to offer us a guided walk of the first ten or so miles of St James Way, from Reading Abbey to Burghfield Common, from where there are buses back to Reading. The walk will start at 10.30am, from St James's church, with the aim of getting to Burghfield Common before 4pm. There will be refreshment stops on the way, The Cunning Man, and the Fox & Hounds at Sheffield Bottom, from where there will also be opportunities to leave the walk using public transport links back to Reading. The walk will be led by a guide from the Con-Fraternity. There will be no charge to take part, but bring or buy your own refreshments, and meet your own transport costs. For further details please email the Friends' secretary: (mailto: secretary).
Sat. 18th June 2022To celebrate the 901st anniversary of the Abbey's foundation, and on the foundation day, we are holding an additional public lecture, by Professor James Clark of the University of Exeter, on the Dissolution of the Monasteries and its impact at Reading, the subject of his book published this year. The lecture will be held in St James’ Church, Abbot’s Walk  The Forbury  Reading  RG1 3HW, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2pm. There is no charge for entry, there will be a retiring collection.
Event poster
Prof. James Clark
Thurs. 2nd - Sun. 5th June 2022

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee and Reading Water Fest 2022

* * * For an account and photos of a very successful Water Fest 2022,
please go to the Look Back at Past Events page.
* * *

A range of Jubilee celebration events and activities will be taking place in Reading over the Platinum Jubilee, including:

  • A beacon lighting ceremony in the Abbey Ruins on the evening of 2 June 2022. Information can be found on whatsonreading though please note this has now sold out
  • A specially created, augmented reality trail across Reading to link with our Mayor’s charity sponsored walk across Reading over the Jubilee weekend
  • Trinity Concert Band children’s concert at the Forbury Bandstand on Sunday 5 June
  • Jubilee exhibition at Berkshire Record Office - May 26 to August 26
  • A range of Jubilee-related activities at Reading Museum, including a Platinum Pudding Trail and Jubilee Dress-Up
  • Reading Libraries Jubilee Rhymetime in the Forbury Gardens – Wednesday 3 August
  • Jubilee Street Parties - 2 to 5 June
  • Reading Water Fest on Saturday 4th June, 11am - 5pm
FORA will have a stall at the Water Fest on the Saturday, 4 June. We will be in the South Transept, along with other local cultural and heritage groups including the Friends of Reading Museum, Reading Civic Society, and the Con-Fraternity of St James. We will have a book stall, and displays linked to the Abbey history; we will also be selling our Reading Abbey 900 badges. And we will be running a children's history trail. Come along to call by and say hello.

Also: Friday 3rd June, 4.30pm: The Jubilee Tribute Concert in the Abbey Ruins. The top UK tribute bands, including Queen, The Beatles and George Michael, come together for a night under the stars to celebrate the Jubilee in one of Reading's most prestigious heritage sites. You can book tickets online at .

Further information about the platinum jubilee celebrations is on the Visit Reading website.

Sat. 26th March 2022The second Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture, in memory of our founder and late President, who died in 2019. It will be given by Dr Fredrica Teale of the University of Southampton who will talk on the Reading Formulary, the rare Fourteenth Century Abbey manuscript which Brian helped to locate in private hands, and which the Friends helped to purchase for the Berkshire Record Office in 2013. Dr Teale has just completed her PhD on the Formulary.
The event will take place at Abbey Baptist Church on Abbey Square, Reading, starting at 2.30pm, doors open at 2.00pm. This will be a public event, all are welcome. No charge, there will be a retiring collection. Event poster
Dr Fredrica Teale
Fri. 3rd - Fri. 31st December 2021Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town. The Twilight Trail returns to Reading’s stunning Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens with a biscuit-themed trail to celebrate Reading’s link with the world-famous Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory. See Whatsonreading for details and booking information.
Sat. 30th Oct. 2021The Friends' AGM. We are planning a live meeting, our first since 2019, at Abbey Baptist Church, in Abbey Square, within the Abbey precinct. Doors will open at 2.00pm for a 2.30pm start. The AGM will be followed by an illustrated talk by Dr Joanna Laynesmith, Research Fellow at the University of Reading, on "Elizabeth Woodville: A knight’s widow 'openly honoured as queen' at Reading Abbey."  AGM poster.Dr Joanna Laynesmith
Tues. 28th Sept. 2021The University of Reading is presenting a lecture "Reading Abbey at 900 - Revealing Reading Abbey's Archaeology". Archaeologist and architectural historian Tim Tatton-Brown will be exploring the archaeological archives to shed new light on the development of Reading Abbey, including the probable location of the tomb of Henry I. The lecture will start at 7.00pm.  Event poster. Tim Tatton-Brown
Fri. 20th - Sun. 22nd Aug. 2021Summer Screens presents... Reading Open Air Cinema in the Abbey Ruins, three films on consecutive nights. For details and booking please see Summer Screens.
Wed. 14th July - Sat. 24th July 2021Progress Theatre are presenting an Open Air Shakespeare performance of Romeo and Juliet in the Abbey Ruins, celebrating both the 900th anniversary since the founding of Reading Abbey, and Progress Theatre's return to open-air theatre following the start of Covid-19. Progress Theatre's What's On page.
Fri. 11th June - Sat. 3rd July 2021Rabble Theatre are presenting a new play by Beth Flintoff: "The Last Abbot", about Hugh Faringdon, the last abbot of Reading Abbey, Henry VIII, and the ruin of the Abbey. The play will be performed in the Abbey ruins, so an opportunity to enjoy a play about the Abbey while seated within its majestic ruins. Further information and booking on the Rabble Theatre website.
Sat. 19th June 2021Reading Borough Council have announced that the annual Water Fest will be going ahead this year, and will be combined with a celebration of the 900th Anniversary of Reading Abbey. As can be seen there is a long list of activities and entertainments, so get the day marked in your diary. The format will differ from previous years owing to covid-19 restrictions, and entry will be by ticket only - booking is at The Friends of Reading Abbey will be there, in the South Transept of the ruins, so do come and see us there.
Postscript: an account and photos of a very successful Reading Water Fest can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Thurs. 20th May 2021Dr Joe Chick, from Warwick University gave an update to his 2019 Spring Lecture, on Reading in the Late Fifteenth Century, starting at 7.30pm. This was a virtual event held via Zoom. Dr Joe Chick
Sat. 27th March 2021The Spring lecture will this year be delivered by Dr Adrian Ailes, who will be speaking on The Heraldry of Reading Abbey and its Legacy. This will be the inaugural Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture, in memory of our late President and co-founder who died in August 2019. It was deferred from 2020 due to the first Covid-19 lockdown. The date has been chosen due to its proximity to Brian's birthday, 25 March (Lady Day). The lecture will start at 2.30pm.
In the light of continuing lockdown restrictions on public gatherings, this will be a virtual event held via Zoom.
To mark the inauguration of the Professor Brian Kemp memorial lecture, the Friends of Reading Abbey are pleased to publish a transcription of a paper on The Royal Abbey of Reading which Professor Kemp delivered to the XXIInd Colloquium of the International Reynard Society, held in Reading in July 2017: The Royal Abbey of Reading.
Dr Adrian Ailes
Thurs. 22nd April 2021Graham Horn, the Reading-based Blue Badge Guide, will give a talk on The Kennet and Avon Canal, starting at 7.30pm. This will be a virtual event held via Zoom.
 Graham Horn
8th Dec. 2020 - 3rd Jan. 2021At last an event that you can attend in person. A festive trail full of sparkles and illuminations leading you through the Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins is to be held over the forthcoming Christmas and New Year period, each evening from 4pm.
To maintain Covid safety, attendance is by ticket only and tickets must be pre-booked. Details of the event and how to book can be seen at  Whatsonreading : Reading Twilight Trail.   Also see Berzerk Productions' photos of the event preview on Facebook.
Thurs. 10th Dec. 2020Local historian and Friend Lindsay Mullaney has agreed to deliver a lecture via Zoom on The Hand of St James, on Thursday 10 December, at 7.30pm. The Hand of St James was one of the most important relics in England in the High Middle Ages, and the inspiration for pilgrims to come to Reading Abbey to see it. The miracles associated with The Hand were a subject of interest to our late President, Professor Brian Kemp, and his last publication, Reading Abbey Records: a New Miscellany includes commentary on and translations from the Latin text on 27 miracles.
In the week of the event, the Friends' secretary will send out a Zoom invite to all members with an email contact, and they will be welcome to join and listen. If anyone who is not a member of the Friends would like to hear the Zoom lecture, please send an email to request an invitation to the secretary at: ( secretary ).
Lindsay Mullaney
Sat. 24th Oct. 2020In the light of continuing lockdown restrictions on public gatherings, we have come to the reluctant decision that it will not be feasible - or wise - to hold a 'live' Annual General Meeting this year. Instead we will hold a virtual AGM, through Zoom, which we believe will enable more members to be involved, without leaving home.
Further details about how this will work will be circulated in early October. However, the time will be the same:- 2.30pm on Saturday 24 October. By necessity, access to the AGM will be electronic, through a compatible device. Given the size of our membership, it will not be practical to send invitations to every member, and instead in early October we will invite you to indicate whether you wish to be sent a Zoom invite.
The focus of the AGM will be on transacting the business that we need to do. This is approving the end-of-year accounts and agreeing the membership fee for 2020-21, and electing the officers and committee for 2020-21.
It follows from this that our October public lecture will be postponed, until our AGM in 2021. This was to have been given, and will now be given in October 2021, by Dr Joanna Laynesmith, on Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
The Down at the Abbey Festival "following the success of the first year, are excited to be returning to the historic and beautiful Reading Abbey Ruins" for a second time. More information is on their Facebook page.    *** Please note: As can be seen from the Facebook page, the festival has been postponed to Sept. 2021 ***
Fri. 20th Mar. 2020 The Professor Brian Kemp Memorial Lecture due to be held on Friday 20 March 2020 was cancelled due to Government advice to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Adrian Ailes
Sat. 26 Oct. 2019The Friends AGM took place in Greyfriars Church, Reading, and was attended by 79 people. We elected Janet Bond, who as Mayor of Reading was one of our co-founders, to replace Professor Brian Kemp as our President.
The meeting was followed by a fascinating illustrated talk about the Grey Friars in Reading, 1233-1538, given by Malcolm
Summers, a local historian and Friend, in the nave of their friary. Summary of the talk.
Photographs of the event, kindly supplied by Dianne Sykes: Greyfriars church interior , Malcolm Summers , the Friends AGM.
Malcolm Summers
Sun. 13 Oct. 2019Reading Gaol was built on part of the site of Reading Abbey. With the future use of the gaol buildings in doubt, the Friends of Reading Gaol group organised a ‘hug-in’ around the gaol on Sunday 13th October 2019, to support a campaign for its use as an arts centre. An account of the event can be seen in Wokingham.Today. Three further photos kindly supplied by Dianne Sykes can be seen under these links: photo 1, photo 2, photo 3
Autumn 2019Tours of Reading Abbey Quarter were run by Reading Museum during the autumn of 2019.
Fri. 11th - Sun. 13th Oct. 2019The British Association of Friends of Museums (BAFM) held their National Conference and AGM in Reading Museum & Town Hall. The programme included tours of the Reading Abbey Quarter and other venues of interest in Reading. Full details can be seen on the BAFM website.
Thurs. 10 Oct. 2019The Big Sleep Out is organised each year in Reading by Launchpad to draw attention to homelessness and rough sleeping. This year it was held on World Homelessness Day, and for the first time in the Abbey Ruins. Details at Big Sleep Out
Fri. 13th - Sun. 22nd Sept. 2019Heritage Open Days 2019 ran during this period, with events and open venues across Reading. The Abbey Inner Gateway were open on Sat. 14th Sept., 10am-12 noon. St James' Church were open 11am - 4pm on Fri. 13th and Sat. 14th Sept. A programme of events was run in St James' Church by John and Lindsay Mullaney. A flier for this can be seen here. Information and the full programme for Heritage Open Days in Reading on the Living Reading website.
Sat. 7th Sept 2019A new festival "Down at the Abbey" took place in the Abbey Ruins, run by live music promoters Heavy Pop. Further information can be seen on the Reading Arts website.
Sun. 4 Aug. 2019Friends' First Sunday, Caversham Court Gardens. The Friends of Reading Abbey and Friends of Reading Museum joined with the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens for a very pleasant afternoon of events held in the Gardens. An account and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 27 July 2019The British Pilrimage Trust are organising a Reading Fringe Festival Pilgrimage - from Sonning via Caversham to Reading Abbey. Details on the British Pilgrimage Trust website
Wed. 24 July 2019The FORA annual outing was to Cholsey, Wallingford and Dorchester Abbey. Information and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Wed. 3 July 2019The Midland Catholic History Society has organised a day at St James’ Church Reading. Although the conference is for members of the English Catholic History Association, they have kindly agreed that it is open for non members. If you are interested in coming to the whole day all, or just part of it, you would be most welcome. Please see attached information document for details. (Information from John Mullaney).
Fri. 14 & Sat. 15 June 2019A preview of a new play about Hugh Faringdon "The Last Abbot" was performed in the Abbey Ruins by the Reading Between the Lines theatre company.
Sat. 15 June 2019Reading Museum Waterfest Early Bird Exclusive: Abbey Gateway Rooftop Tour.
Sat. 15 June 2019Reading Waterfest was held in the usual locations, in the Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins and along The Kennet, between Chestnut Walk and the Riverside Museum. The Friends of Reading Abbey and Friends of Reading Museum had a gazebo on Chestnut Walk with the focal points being the petition to use Reading Gaol as an Arts venue, and the questionnaire about possible ways of celebrating in 2021 the 900th anniversary of the founding of Reading Abbey. An account and photos of the day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 6 April 2019 Reading Abbey Quarter held a one-day conference on "Royal Death and Burial - Reading Abbey in Context" in Reading Town Hall. Details can be seen on the Abbey Quarter website What's On page. Further information including the programme and speakers can be seen here. An account of the day written by one of the speakers, Prof. Lindy Grant can be seen here on Reading History, the blog of the History Department at Reading University.
Mon. 1 April 2019The Berkshire Churches Trust held a lecture on "Henry I in Berkshire: Reading Abbey and Windsor Castle". The lecture was given by Tim Tatton-Brown OBE in the Long Gallery at Englefield House. This poster gives further details.
Fri. 22nd March 2019The Spring lecture was held in St Laurence's Church, Friar St., Reading, RG1 1DA, at 7.30pm, doors open 7.00pm. The speaker was Joe Chick, post-graduate student at the University of Warwick, and he gave a talk on the Impact of Dissolution on Town Society and Merchant Guilds. A poster for the lecture can be seen hereJoe Chick
8th - 27th October 2018The Reading Between the Lines theatre company's production of "Henry II", the final part of the Conquerors trilogy and sequel to Matilda the Empress was presented in Reading Minster church. Reading Between the Lines website.
Sat. 27th Oct. 2018The Friends of Reading Abbey AGM was held in St James Church on Forbury Rd. After the AGM, Professor Anne Lawrence-Mathers gave a talk on the theme of "Magic, Medicine and Miracles in the Medieval Abbey." A summary of the subject of the lecture and profile of Professor Lawrence-Mathers can be seen here. A poster for the AGM is here.
A write-up and photos can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
  Professor Anne
Sat. 29th Sept. 2018The Department for Continuing Education in the University of Oxford held a one day course on Reading Abbey entitled "Henry I's Reading Abbey: the Architecture of His Burial Church". The course was arranged in association with the Reading Abbey Quarter (Reading Museum) and the Friends of Reading Abbey. It took place at Rewley House, near the city centre in Oxford.
Th. 6th-Sun. 9th & Th. 13th-Sun. 16th Sept. 2018Heritage Open Days (HOD) are spread over two weekends this year and feature various Abbey related events.
Links: the HOD website's Search page allows a postcode to be entered to find local events ;
the HOD Facebook page for Reading is at Facebook Reading HOD ; the HOD LivingReading page is at LivingReading HOD.
Please note also that the Reading on Thames festival runs from 6th-16th Sept.
Sun. 2nd Sept. 2018The Friends of Reading Abbey joined with the Friends of Reading Museum and the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens to hold a Summer Party in the Abbey ruins to celebrate their re-opening.
Links: Programme for the party ; Reading Borough Council press release.
Photographs and a write-up of the party can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page
Wed. 25th July 2018The FORA annual outing this year was to the great Norman Abbey in Tewkesbury and the nearby Saxon churches at Deerhurst. The programme can be seen here and photographs of the outing can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page.
Sat. 16th June 2018 *** The Abbey ruins were re-opened to the public. Reading Water Fest was held the same day. ***    

Photographs and a write-up of this historic day can be seen on the Look Back at Past Events page
Fri. 13th April 2018The Spring lecture was held in St Laurence's Church, Friar St. Reading. The lecture was given by Simon Marsh, Research Officer at the Battlefields Trust, on the topic 'A Place Strongly Fortified - The Civil War Siege of Reading'. This focused on the 1643 siege of the town, and the Abbey Quarter's involvement in it. The Civil War possibly caused more damage to the structures of the Abbey than the dissolution a century earlier, and ended its use as a royal palace.
A profile of Simon Marsh can be seen here.
Poster for the event.
Simon Marsh
Feb. - Apr. 2018In the run-up to the re-opening of the Abbey Ruins later this year, Reading Museum are organising a series of lectures and activity events at the Museum. These are:
10 Feb 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm    Talks at Two: Early Closing Day - The Day Reading was Bombed
13 Feb 2018 - 10:00am to 3:30pm   Reading Abbey Fun Day
14 Feb 2018 - 10:30am to 3:30pm   Make & Take: Medieval Tile Decorating
15 Feb 2018 - 10:00am to 3:00pm   Bejewelled Medieval Goblet
10 Mar 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm    Talks at Two: Matilda the Empress
  3 Apr 2018 - 10:00am to 3:15pm   Medieval Herb Garden