Abbey Gate, Reading
Oil painting on canvas by Paul Sandby - 1808
The Abbey Gateway was the inner gateway of Reading Abbey that connected the public outer precinct (The Forbury) to the private inner precinct where the monks lived and worked. The Gateway survived the Abbey's dissolution in 1539 as part of a royal residence but by the early nineteenth century was in disrepair as shown in Sandby's painting.
Between 1785 and 1786 Jane Austen, the author, and her sister Cassandra, attended the Reading Ladies’ Boarding School that was located in the Gateway. Jane was 9 ˝ years old when she arrived. The girls had no formal lessons in the afternoon which was unusual for a boarding school at that time. Instead, they could play in the nearby open ground, which later became the Forbury Gardens.
The schoolhouse proper adjoined the Abbey Gateway and was over 70 feet long, on two storeys plus attics. The school was run by a Mrs La Tournelle. Another pupil, Mary Martha Butt, described her as a good matron who was stout, plain and active, despite having a false leg made of cork.She was born Sarah Hackett but changed her name to Mrs La Tournelle to improve her credentials as a French teacher.
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