Reading Abbey radar investigations first probe 'in 150 years'

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Reading Abbey ruinsImage source, Reading Museum
Image caption,
Public access to the ruins at Reading Abbey was closed in summer 2009

Ground penetrating radar is to be used to uncover the secrets of a 900-year-old abbey, where King Henry I and his Queen Adeliza were buried.

It will be the first comprehensive archaeological investigation at Reading Abbey for more than 150 years.

The Hidden Abbey Project aims to discover the significance of the site, founded by Henry in 1121.

The scheme will run alongside an ongoing conservation project that will see the abbey reopened to the public.

The first phase of the investigations will focus on the abbey church, land around St James' Church, Forbury Gardens and Reading Gaol car park.

'Lavish scale'

The area will also be surveyed to locate possible sites for future investigation, including the high altar where the king was buried.

Image source, None
Image caption,
Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror and founded Reading Abbey in 1121

Reading mayor Sarah Hacker, who is on the project steering group, said: "We hope to show the lavish scale of what in the Middle Ages was one of the major Benedictine Abbeys in western Europe, and a regular place for royal visits and events."

Reading Abbey closed in the summer of 2009 after a survey highlighted the "poor and rapidly deteriorating condition of the walls".

Heritage Lottery Fund money is supporting Reading Borough Council's Reading Abbey Revealed conservation and education project.

Buildings in the quarter include Jane Austen's former school and Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated.

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