Reading Abbey Quarter proposals approved

Reading Abbey ruins
Image caption Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I

Plans to transform "Reading's historic heart" have been approved by councillors at a cabinet meeting.

A project called Revealing The Abbey Quarter will conserve and promote a part of the Berkshire town.

The area includes the 12th Century Abbey ruins, the site of Jane Austen's school and Reading Gaol.

Reading Borough Council expects to find out by the end of April if a bid for £6.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is successful.

King's body returned

The cabinet meeting on Monday night agreed to plans that include repairing the ancient ruins of Reading Abbey.

The abbey site has been closed for two years because of safety fears.

If the HLF bid is unsuccessful then alternative restoration plans will take place, which were also approved at the cabinet meeting.

The Abbey Quarter project would uncover the connections between Reading's Abbey Quarter and prominent historical figures including Henry I, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde, a council agenda stated.

A council spokesman said: "Revealing The Abbey Quarter will transform Reading's historic heart, conserving and promoting this nationally significant heritage.

"The project will contribute to civic aspiration and pride in our town."

Improvements and repairs to the historic sites are scheduled to start in the summer of 2013 and are expected to take two years.

The location of Reading Abbey, which was founded by King Henry I in 1121, was chosen because of its proximity to the Thames and the Kennet.

When Henry I died in Lyons-la-Foret, Normandy in 1135 his body was returned to Reading, and was buried in front of the altar of the then incomplete abbey.

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