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900 Years of Reading Abbey

2021 is an important year for Reading. We are celebrating 900 years since our beloved Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I of England. To celebrate 900 years of Reading, the excellent Reading Water Fest is returning as the flagship celebration for this very special year. Accommodation in Reading will be scarce this year amidst the celebrations so book your stay in PREMIER SUITES serviced apartments Reading soon to avoid disappointment. Here are some of the celebrations you can expect in Reading on June 19th.

900 Years of Reading

Originally one of Europe’s largest royal monasteries, Reading Abbey celebrates its 900th anniversary in June 2021. The Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 and although he died before its completion, monks lived, worked and worshipped there for over 400 years. In 1539, King Henry the 8th ordered the Abbey to be closed with immediate effect. Most of the buildings except two were torn down and the stone was sold. The ruins were subject to major conservation work and reopened to the public in 2018.

Reading Water Fest

We are delighted to welcome back Reading Water Fest, the largest free town-centre community event. The celebration is a mix of heritage, art, and culture marking the occasion with a mixture of live and digital performances, activities and workshops. This exciting one-day event is accessible for all and takes place between 11am and 5pm on Saturday 19th June. Events are planned within the Forbury Gardens, Abbey Ruins and along the River Kennet, celebrating the history of our beautiful Abbey and its connection with Readings waterways. Many of the events are ticketed and subject to strict crowd control, complying with Covid-19 and safety guidelines. Tickets are free and can be booked on the What’s On Reading website.

Highlights of Reading Water Fest

This action-packed day is full of educational and fun events marking this special occasion. Enjoy a range of historical work shops and activities in Forbury Gardens, life drawing sessions in the Abbey’s dormitory or visit Forbury Civil War Camp or Medieval Village to experience history for yourself. Riverside Walk will be transformed into a large photo exhibition, Chocolate Island have a special children’s show planned and boat trips will be available around the Forbury loop. A highlight will be the return of the Water Fest favourites -beautifully painted narrowboats moored along the length of the river who will also take part in two special parades throughout the day. Visit the website for a full list of events taking place across the town, throughout the day.

To mark this very special year, a new carved stone head will be added to the Abbey Gateway, adding to its regal façade. Two heads were left uncarved in the 19th Century restoration and the public are being asked to choose a figure to be immortalised in stone. Cast your vote on the reading Council Website to choose from the following contenders

  • Hugh Faringdon–the last Abbot of Reading, accused of treason by Henry VIII, and publicly hung, drawn, and quartered outside the gateway in 1539.
  • Queen Elizabeth I–who used the abbot’s house and gateway as a royal palace in the 1560s.
  • Jane Austen–who studied in the gateway from 1785 to 1786 when it was used as a classroom for Reading Ladies’ Boarding School.
  • Sir George Gilbert Scott–the leading architect who restored the gateway in 1861 after a thunderstorm caused the archway to collapse.
  • Dr Jamieson Hurry–a local historian and philanthropist who gifted 12 carved heads in 1900.
  • A modern stonemason–based on a female member of the team that worked on the recent restoration of the Abbey.

We are expecting a busy summer in Reading, with visitors making up for lost time. Our serviced apartments Reading offer flexibility, convenience and value which hotels and guesthouses cannot compete with. We are perfectly located in the centre of the city, walking distance from the 900 years of Reading celebrations and all of the main attractions. To book your stay on 19th June or for any other date, visit our official website for exclusive access to special offers and the lowest rates guaranteed.


Learn all about PREMIER SUITES and discover things to do and see near our fantastic city centre locations.

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