Election of the Mayor of Reading by Abbot Thorne in 1460
Oil on canvas by Stephen Reid - 1921
The painting shows the Abbot's appointment of the Mayor of Reading, from three burgesses nominated by the Guild Merchant, on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, 29 September 1460. In the centre of the upper room of the Inner Abbey Gateway stands the Abbot of Reading, John Thorne I. Before him are the three burgesses, Thomas Beke, Thomas Clerke and William Rede, selected to stand as the Mayor of Reading. Nearby stands William Pernecote, the retiring Mayor, who is waiting to hang the chain of office round the neck of his successor.
When King Henry I founded Reading Abbey in 1121 he gave control of the town to the Abbot. The town grew rich providing goods, services and labour to the Abbey and pilgrims. The Abbot wanted to keep his influence over the town, but by the mid 13th century tensions had grown because the town’s people wanted more control over their own affairs. Most of the conflict was between the Abbot and the town’s leaders in the Merchant Guild. Often these disputes were about the Abbot’s right to choose the Mayor of Reading. In 1498 the Guild ignored the Abbot’s choice and picked their own man. The Crown was often drawn into these disputes and sometimes awarded certain rights to the Guild, much to the annoyance of the Abbots.
This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.
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