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Reading Abbey: Connecting Archaeology, Heritage Management and Placemaking

PhD Opportunities

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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Prof R Gilchrist , Dr F Sturt , Mr Matthew Williams , Ms Fiona MacDonald No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Bristol United Kingdom Archaeology Digital Media Heritage Studies History Of Religions Medieval History

About the Project

This project connects the medieval archaeology of Reading Abbey (RA) with current heritage

needs and opportunities in the town of Reading. It offers a unique platform for a doctoral

student to make an original contribution to archaeological understanding of this site of

national historical significance; to develop innovative approaches to 4D digital data

modelling and visualisation; and to use the research to inform local conservation policy and

community engagement with heritage. 

The key research questions are:

• What are the full range of archaeological sources for RA and how reliable are they?

• How can these sources be used to chart the development of the precinct over time?

• How did RA evolve in comparison with other urban Benedictine monasteries?

• What is the most effective method for developing a digital subsurface model to map the extent of evidence?

• Can areas of the precinct be characterised according to their archaeological value

(e.g. sensitivity to new development, research potential, degrees of previous disturbance), in order to create a tool for future heritage management?)

• What approaches to data visualisation can be harnessed to integrate all sources of 4D data (including surviving and documented architectural remains)?

• How can the resulting 4D visualisation models of RA be used to enrich public engagement and local placemaking initiatives?

The doctoral student will work closely with supervisors at Reading Museum and Berkshire

Archaeology (both part of Reading Borough Council) to interrogate primary archaeological

sources and to connect the research with local heritage management needs. Supervisors at

Reading and Southampton Universities will support interpretation of sources and integration and visualisation of data, to enhance academic understanding of RA’s historical significance and to digitally model deposits to appreciate extent, value and threat for future

heritage management by RBC.

A 6-month placement based at RM/BA is planned (Year 2) to enhance the public databases

and to develop a deposit model. The placement will directly address the research questions

and outcomes of the doctoral project, while also improving the quality and consistency of

public records to inform future planning and heritage management decisions.

The research process will prioritise spatial questions and place the medieval abbey in longterm perspective. The wider monastic landscape and its distinctive character will be

evaluated against Benedictine monasteries of comparable status (e.g. Glastonbury, York,

Bury St Edmunds). The digital modelling will bring together data within a 4D geographical

information systems (GIS) package, in contrast with traditional approaches where

architectural remains and subsurface archaeological deposits are treated separately.

The student will have the opportunity to select a special theme or case study appropriate to

their own research interests. They might choose to focus on a particular area of the precinct

(e.g. the functioning of the inner and outer courts for charity and industry); or to highlight a

specific chronological phase (such as the post-medieval royal palace and Civil War

fortification); or to experiment with additional methods of digital modelling or visualisation.

New academic understanding of the physical character, distinctiveness and historical

development of RA will directly inform heritage-based placemaking that is central to RBC’s

economic regeneration and tourism development. The studentship will complement and

support Reading’s HAZ Project, funded until 2024. 

Find out more here:

Start your application here:

Funding Notes

For full details on our funding and eligibility please visit our website here:
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