Series: Institutions Oct-Dec

Enjoy all five afternoon talks in the “Institutions” series, with tea/coffee, cake and expert speakers, for the reduced price of four. 

Thursday 10th October, 2-4pm – Reading Abbey: with John Painter

Discover the impact of Reading Abbey on the town of Reading, both in its heyday as a royal Abbey and as one of the ten leading monasteries in the country. Hear about the impact of the dissolution and its subsequent use as a royal palace, the destruction during the Civil War, and the subsequent re-development of the Abbey Quarter and preservation of the Abbey Ruins up to the present day.  

Thursday 24th October, 2-4pm – The History of Reading Gaol: with Mark Stevens

County Archivist and Berkshire Family History Society Vice-President, Mark Stevens, explores the history of the prison from the Georgian period until its first closure in 1920. Find out about the separate system of ‘hard labour, hard board and hard fare’ that characterised the Victorian regime; before hearing about Oscar Wilde, some of the prison’s executions and Reading’s little-known role in the Easter Rising.

Saturday 9th November, 12-2pm – Murder at Reading Gaol: with Angela Buckley

In the second of our talks focusing on Reading Gaol, crime writer and Berkshire Family History Society Vice-President, Angela Buckley, will share stories of the Victorian inmates of Reading Prison, including the nefarious acts of baby farmer Amelia Dyer, and the murder that inspired Oscar Wilde to write The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Thursday 21st November, 2-4pm – The History of Reading’s Hospitals: with Lionel Williams

Discover the history of Reading’s Hospitals from 1837 to the present day in this fascinating talk. The talk mainly focuses on the Royal Berkshire Hospital, which opened on London Road, Reading in 1839, but also includes some information about Battle & Prospect Park Hospitals.

Thursday 5th December, 2-4pm – Reading’s Nineteenth Century Schools: with Joan Dils

In the 19th century, churches and individuals were the main benefactors setting up local schools, until in 1871, when the local authority in Reading also became involved in the provision of education through Reading School Board. Joan will tell us about the development of education in Reading through this period of time.

You may purchase tickets for individual events, please see separate links for each, or for all five talks in the series in this special multi-ticket offer. 

The ticket price includes tea/coffee and cake after the talk.

Advance booking is required by 9th October. 


10 Oct 2019


The Centre for Heritage & Family History


The Centre for Heritage & Family History
2nd Floor, Reading Central Library, Abbey Square, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3BQ


  • Angela Buckley
    Angela Buckley

    Angela is a keen family historian, with a particular interest in crime history. She began researching her family history and soon discovered that many of her ancestors had broken the law. These ancestors, as well as other family history related topics, have been the subject of many articles for national magazines and newspapers. Angela’s first book “The real Sherlock Holmes” was based on the fascinating casebook of Jerome Caminada, a celebrated 19th century detective who served on the Manchester City police force.

    Angela moved to Reading twenty years ago and has very much enjoyed researching local historical crimes. When she settled in Caversham, she learnt about Victorian baby farmer Amelia Dyer, and published an account of the shocking discovery of her crimes in “Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders”, giving many local talks on the topic.

    A former chair of the Society of Genealogists, Angela’s is now a vice-president of Berkshire Family History Society.

  • Joan Dils
    Joan Dils

    Joan Dils is an experienced local historian and writer specialising in 16th and 17th century Berkshire. Her books include: the first and second editions of “An Historical Atlas of Berkshire”, the latter edited in conjunction with Margaret Yates, and Reading St Laurence Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1498-1570: Parts I and II, (Berkshire Record Series). Her latest, “History of Reading”, was published in October 2019.

    Joan is president of the Berkshire Local History Association and also the History of Reading Society, and an Honorary Visiting Fellow in History at the University of Reading. She taught history and local history for the former School of Continuing Education at Reading and Oxford Universities where she was a part-time lecturer.

  • John Painter
    John Painter

    John Painter has been actively involved with the Friends of Reading Abbey from 2011, and secretary since 2013. Throughout, he has been an active supporter of the efforts to consolidate the Abbey Ruins and get them re-opened to the public in plenty of time for 2021, the 900th anniversary of the Abbey’s foundation. He is the joint editor, with Dr Peter Durrant, of “Reading Abbey and the Abbey Quarter” (Two Rivers Press, 2018).

  • Lionel Williams
    Lionel Williams

    Lionel trained as a medical photographer in London and opened a new Medical Photography Department at the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) in 1964. He held the position of Chief Medical Photographer at the RBH between 1964 and 2004.

    On retirement, Lionel joined the Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre, which is the body responsible for running the Royal Berkshire Medical Museum. He is now its Secretary. He has written and co-written a number of books and guide on the subject of medical history and the museum’s collections.

  • Mark Stevens
    Mark Stevens
    County Archivist for Berkshire

    Mark is Berkshire’s county archivist.

    He grew up in Maidenhead and has a lifelong love of history in the Royal County. He is particularly interested in historic mental health care and the people who received it and is the author of two related books: “Broadmoor Revealed” and “Life in the Victorian Asylum”.

    Mark was elected as vice-president of the Berkshire Family History Society in 2016.

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Berkshire Family History Society works to meet the needs of those researching their ancestry across the UK and overseas – as well as those looking for former relatives in historic Berkshire.  You do not need to be a member to benefit.

The society offers:

  • Research Zone in central Reading that is free to use and open to all

  • Free access at The Centre for Heritage and Family History to online resources like FindMyPast, the 1939 Register, The Genealogist, the British Newspaper Archive and Ancestry (the worldwide edition)

  • Regular free help and advice sessions

  • Meetings in Abingdon, Bracknell, Newbury, Reading, Windsor and Woodley — open to everyone

  • Online discussion list for members  informed answers to research queries and advice from experienced researchers

  • Members’ Area with data and other information not readily accessible elsewhere

  • Indexes and transcriptions of Berkshire’s historic records on CD — parish registers, probate documents, monumental inscriptions, maps, First World War history and more

  • Quarterly magazine, the Berkshire Family Historian, for members

  • a chance to join in project work, recording, transcribing and helping to preserve records

  • Links to the research experience, advice and support of members worldwide

  • Opportunities to volunteer and so help others with their family history