Reading is a fairly eclectic town full of small streets and new glass towers. Tall office buildings stand next to historical houses. Town centre has very beautiful gardens. Office workers can be seen having lunch on perfectly trimmed green lawns during their breaks when the weather is good. People have picnics and walks. It really is a perfect setting for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
Right next to the gardens stands a large ruin of Reading Abbey. It was destroyed during the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538. Prior to its fall the Abbey served as a culture centre with strong links to France. What now are Forbury Gardens used to be the territory of the monastery. Now only several other ruins are scattered around town which show the grandiose scale of the complex. You can see them in the video which is below this article. The Ruins were closed for some time but they are now restored and made safe for public to visit. This restoration process took place in 2004.
The Abbey Ruins definitely worth a visit to those who love history. They are located only few minutes walk from the train station which has direct links with London. So if you are travelling from London Paddington, the journey will be very short.
There is however another historical building right next to the ruins. That is Reading Prison. It is built of deep brown brick which contrasts with the the Abbey. It was erected in 19th century and is famous for Oscar Wilde, who spent two years of hard labour there. Not many many people know harsh reality of Victorian prison life. Even a child could end up in prison in those times which was a frequent occasion too.
Oscar Wilde managed to convince the director of the prison to let him write a long letter of revelation to his close friend. He argued that writing this letter would be beneficial to him understanding the sentence. Oscar was allowed to write it but he wasn’t allowed to send it. Each page was confiscated from him upon the completion. He did however receive it upon his release.
After editing it and working on this letter a literary masterpiece was born: De Profundis where the author talks about his spiritual journey behind the bars. Another literary piece which is associated with the prison is called The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Now this building is not used as a prison. In fact it is simply closed and is up for sale. It is not clear what the future holds for the historical complex. One thing is certain: it’s unique skyline and tall brick walls as well as the Abbey ruins will always be a historical signature of Reading.
Do you remember Mike Bogatyrev, who accompanied us on our Glastonbury Tor article? He is a travel vlogger who is focusing on culture, visual beauty of the place he visits. “I love sharing my impressions of the places I have visited and inspiring my viewers to visit the place. You can see my travel video on my YouTube Channel, just search for Mike Bogatyrev Travel Channel.” – he said. Mike also had a very interesting trip at Reading Prison and Abbey, check out his videos at these 2 landmarks
Once again, thanks to Mike for writing on this experience together. If you find his shares interesting, subscribe to his youtube channel and give him a thumbs up after watching. Don’t forget to share with us your trips via firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Facebook / Twitter.