Reading has won the lottery – well, almost.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has secured initial support for plans to restore and renew the town’s historic Abbey Quarter.
Reading Borough Council now has two years to work on its application seeking a full grant of £1.7million from the Fund.
If successful, it will enable the site to be restored and reopened to the public.
The bid was launched after a public consultation – more than 1,150 people responded, with 97% backing the application.
Since then, the Council has opened up the Abbey ruins for tours and these have been hugely popular, with ones run during WaterFest being oversubscribed. Plans are in place to hold more tours during Heritage Open Days in September.
Paul Gittings, lead member for culture at Reading Borough Council, is delighted with the news. He said: “This is fantastic news as the Council moves towards delivering its long standing ambition to conserve and reopen the Abbey Quarter to Reading’s public. We know there is a great deal of support for the project, both on a local and national level.
“Today’s news is just the start however. I know officers are already moving forward with plans to enter the development phase of the project and that they are aiming to be able to submit the full grant application to HLF in the next 18 months.”
Many of the Quarter’s historic features are recognised as having national and local importance, being designated as part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Listed Buildings. Reading Museum’s significant collections relating to the Abbey are of international importance and both reflect Reading’s long history of global links.
The main conservation priorities are the Abbey Ruins and the Abbey Gateway, both part of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments and on the English Heritage ‘Heritage at Risk Register’. Separate funding has already improved Town Hall Square in 2013 and has been secured to restore St Laurence’s churchyard wall during 2014-15.
The project to conserve the Abbey was initiated after public access to the ruins was closed in summer 2009 after a condition survey highlighted the ‘poor and rapidly deteriorating condition of the walls’. Working with English Heritage, Reading Borough Council has already completed comprehensive condition surveys and investigations of the Abbey Ruins and Abbey Gate. The condition surveys have established a detailed schedule of repairs and a cost plan which is included in the Council’s Heritage Lottery funding bid.
Find out more information about the Abbey Quarter Project by logging on to the Reading Museum Website.