Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 after his son and heir died in the White Ship. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial. It was one of the principal religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The first monks who arrived on 18 June 1121 were Benedictines from the Cluniac order and came from Cluny in France and Lewes in Sussex. The first abbot, Abbot Hugh of Amiens, was appointed in 1123.
The presence of the Abbey had a considerable effect on the development of Reading and its influence can still be seen on the street pattern today. Reading's current Abbey Quarter includes the whole of the Abbey precinct.
The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII and the last Abbot, Hugh Faringdon, was executed on 14 November 1539 for treason for denying the King’s supremacy of the Church in England. The Abbey became the property of the Crown and the Abbot’s house became a Royal palace. The destruction of the Church and monastic buildings began in 1548 after Henry VIII's death and continued for the next hundred years.
The twelfth century carved stonework from the Reading Abbey in Reading Museum is an internationally important collection of Romanesque stones. It includes decorated cloister capitals, one of which is the earliest representation of the Coronation of the Virgin, and a number of beakhead voussoirs which can be seen in the Story of Reading Gallery.