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The ruined walls of the medieval Reading Abbey, founded in 1121 by King Henry 1, still stand close to Reading Town Centre. The Abbey went on to becomeone of the most powerful in England. King Henry's desire was to be buried within its grounds and his wish was granted; although the exact location of his grave is not known. This makes Reading one of the select few English towns and cities where an English monarch is buried. The Abbey went on to become one of the most powerful and wealthy in England until it was dissolved in 1539 by another King Henry, this time VIII. During the Reformation of the 1530s he broke with the Catholic Church in Rome, established the Church of England with himself at its head, and closed down all the monastic institutions and seized their wealth and assets. Over subsequent years much of the Abbey was torn down and the stones used for other buildings - much of the stone used inthe Rebuilding of St Mary the Virgin, the Minster Church of Reading, in the 1550s came from this source.
The earliest-ever manuscript of the first secular song known to have been written in English, 'Sumer is icumen in' was owned by a monk at Reading Abbey and is thought to have been written here in the 13th Century. It can be sung as a canon and is often referred to as 'The Reading Rota'.
Sadly the ruined walls are (at March 2013) fenced off and not currently accessible by the general public, although they can be viewed from Forbury Gardens and from Chestnut Walk, alongside the River Kennet (where the Ocar Wilde Memorial Gate is located).
Reading Abbey Ruins from Forbury Gardens; Memorial to Henry Beauclerc (King Henry I of England) in Forbury Gardens.
Reading Abbey Ruins from Chestnut Walk.