Council Submits Funding Bid for Reading Abbey Revealed Project
Reading Borough Council Press Release
READING Borough Council has submitted its second round application bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £1.77 million for its ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ project.
The HLF’s decision-making committee will meet in December. If the submission is successful, it is anticipated that the project would start in mid-February/early March 2016 and the Abbey Ruins would reopen in 2018.
The Council successfully secured a ‘first round’ development grant from HLF in June 2014,which has allowed its project team to develop the more detailed plans required for this second stage application.
Since receiving permission to start the project’s development stage from HLF in September 2014, the project team has procured and appointed two consultants to work up plans for public activities and interpretation in and around the Abbey Quarter. In parallel, a detailed programme of conservation and repairs for the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gate has been developed by the project architects.
The development of these plans involved extensive engagement with stakeholders and the public. An online survey was completed by 1,053 people. This was the most responses the activity consultants had ever received for a HLF project. Virtually all participants agreed that the Abbey Ruins and Gate were an important part of Reading’s history and identity (99.5% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, with 93.4% strongly agreeing).
These results, as well as the feedback from stakeholders’ interviews, focus groups and workshops, were fed into the project's activity plan. The consultants have developed a plan that actively creates opportunities for people to participate and learn about their heritage, understand the incredible significance of the Abbey in shaping the town and putting Reading on the map, as well as simply enjoying the fabulous environment of the Abbey Quarter as a place to relax and reflect in the heart of the town centre. This plan covers all public activities, training and volunteering that will take place during the Reading Abbey Revealed project through the Museum’s volunteering programme. This programme has particularly impressed the Council's Activity Plan consultant who described it as ‘streets ahead of any organisation that they have dealt with in terms of the roles of volunteers and their personal development’.
Alongside the activity programme, the consultants for the site’s interpretation have developed a detailed plan for signage and information in and around the Quarter, including displays at Reading Museum. Their main objective is to provide interpretation that will enhance visitors' understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the Abbey's heritage.
During February, a specialist buildings archaeologist examined the Abbey Ruins. Combining a visual inspection and recent surveys, the consultant was asked to interpret the existing standing remains and identify significant surviving architectural features or evidence of them. From this on-site work the archaeologist has since been able to reveal a fuller picture of how these areas of the Abbey may have looked in their original form. This work also provides some suggestions as to what happened to the Abbey after it was dissolved – for example, some of the damage caused by the English Civil War. The results of these findings have informed the architects’ approach as they work closely with Historic England to finalize detailed plans for the conservation and interpretation of the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gate.
During the development phase the project team has continued to engage with the community, leading ‘hard hat’ tours for members of the public and working with the Friends of Reading Abbey to organize drop-in tours for 288 people during this year’s Waterfest.
People can find out more about the Abbey Quarter project on the Reading Museum website, where you can download the latest edition of the Abbey Quarter newsletter and also book on our Abbey Quarter guided tours for this year’s Heritage Open Days at www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk and on the Abbey Quarter Facebook page www.facebook.com/ReadingAbbeyQuarter
Paul Gittings, Lead Councillor for Culture, Sport and Consumer Protection said:
“This application has been developed after extensive public consultation demonstrated local people’s support for and interest in their heritage. If our second round application is successful, we will start an extremely exciting project of £3.15 million to deliver our vision for the Abbey Quarter; conserving the Abbey Ruins and Gate, implementing a site-wide interpretation of the Abbey Quarter, and a programme of events and activities co-ordinated by Reading Museum and its partners.’“
Tony Page, Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The Abbey is a site of national and international importance and the Reading Abbey Revealed project will ensure it takes its rightful place on the map. Our plans will open up the Abbey Quarter so that residents, visitors and future generations can appreciate and enjoy it. After a very successful development phase, I look forward to receiving positive news on this bid in the New Year.”
Notes for Editors:
Reading Borough Council Press Releases can be found online at http://beta.reading.gov.uk/article/1908/News–Press-Releases/
Media Contact: Oscar Mortali
Tel: 0118 937 2301