East of the railway station, Forbury Gardens is a small and tidy public park on the outer court of the former Reading Abbey, It became a public park in the middle of the 19th century, the Maiwand Lion a statue in the middle of the park was erected in 1886 to commemorate the dead from the 66th Berkshire Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan in 1880.
Forbury Gardens is a public park in the town of Reading in the English county of Berkshire. The park is on the site of the outer court of Reading Abbey, which was in front of the Abbey Church. The site was formerly known as the Forbury, and one of the roads flanking the current gardens is still known as The Forbury. Fairs were held on the site three times a year until the 19th century.
Forbury, a suburb of the New Zealand city of Dunedin, was named after the gardens by early resident William Henry Valpy, who was born in Reading
Reading Abbey was founded in 1121, by Henry I, and for the next four centuries it dominated the town, becoming one of the most influential establishments in England. Like other such monasteries, Reading had a forbury, or ‘borough in front’, an area of open land which provided a meeting place between the Abbey and the town. The Forbury in Reading was part of the outer court of the Abbey, and provided a market place as well as a meeting place.
In 1150, what is now Forbury Hill was constructed to help fortify the Abbey during the civil war between King Henry I’s daughter, Matilda, and his nephew, Stephen.
The abbey was largely destroyed in 1538 during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The last abbot, Hugh Cook Faringdon, was tried and convicted of high treason, and hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the Abbey Church. After this, the buildings of the abbey were extensively looted, with lead, glass and facing stones removed for reuse elsewhere, and the focus of the town moved away from the Forbury.
Forbury Hill, used as a gun emplacement in the civil war
Reading suffered badly during the English Civil War, being occupied at different times by both sides. During the Siege of Reading (1642-3), the Royalist garrison built defences that further damaged the remains of the Abbey, and Forbury Hill was used as a gun emplacement.
As a result of the concerns sparked in England by the French Revolution, and throughout the ensuing Napoleonic Wars, the Forbury was used for military drills and parades, in addition to its well-established use for fairs and circuses. Three annual fairs were generally held on the Forbury, but the most significant was the Michaelmas Fair, held in September. This fair became known as the Reading Cheese Fair, although cattle, horses and hops were also sold, and it served as the principal local hiring fair.