Reading council is hoping to secure £6.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help repair the ancient ruins of Reading Abbey and create what the council is calling an ‘Abbey Quarter’ cultural area aimed at attracting more visitors to the town.
The council proposes to contribute £850,000 towards the project that would involve improvements and repairs to historic sites, including the abbey that was founded by Henry I in 1121 and where he was buried in front of the altar, although the building work was not finished, after his death in 1135.
The Abbey has been closed for two years because of safety fears.
If the bid that was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund last month (November) is successful, work could start on site in the summer of 2013.
The Abbey Quarter would be approximately the area of the original abbey precinct. The project would not only encompass several conservation projects (such as the ruins themselves, the abbey gateway and the wall around St Laurence’s churchyard) but also other initiatives including the transformation of Reading Museum so it could be an orientation point for the Quarter with in-depth information, improved street and directional signs and education, training and community participation aspects.
The council says many of the historic features that will be involved in the project are recognised as being of national as well as local importance, as demonstrated by being designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Listed Buildings.
A project to conserve the Abbey was initiated after public access to the ruins was closed in the summer of 2009 after a condition survey highlighted the “poor and rapidly deteriorating condition of the walls”.
Survey work has been carried out by specialist building surveyors using photogrammetry.
From these scans, architects have created a detailed picture map of each area to help identify the extent of the conservation work required. They are also reviewing the work required on other areas.