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Reading is situated in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the Rivers Thames and Kennet. It is 61 kilometers (38 miles) west of London and is a town and borough in Berkshire, England.

It is a major junction of railways which run south from the Midlands and west from London. Additionally, the Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Thames are handy for products as well as people going via water.

During the 8th century, the Anglo-Saxon settlement was established where the River Kennet meets the Thames. In 870, Vikings captured Reading, and the settlement became a Danish encampment.

The Benedictine Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 and was dissolved by Henry VIII after Pope Clement VII refused to give him an annulment from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII had become infatuated with Anne Boleyn, and that infatuation, coupled with the fact that Catherine was unable to produce a son as heir to the throne, prompted Henry to sever the Church of England from the Catholic church. He then appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, and dissolved convents and monasteries across the country. He then turned the abbey into a palace which was demolished during the English Civil Wars.

At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Abbot of Reading Abbey was a Benedictine monk named Hugh Cook of Faringdon. was supportive of King Henry VIII during the kerfuffle with the Pope over the king’s proposed annulment. He was a member of the House of Lords from 1523 until 1539. Along with other members of the House of Lords, he signed a letter to Pope Clement defending the king’s position about annulment. In 1536, he signed the Articles of Faith which recognized Henry’s supremacy of the Crown over the Catholic Church.

In early 1539, Hugh instructed the daughter house of Reading Abbey to surrender the Priory and its relics to the king, but that did not happen. In early September of that same year, Hugh was arrested and confined to the Tower of London where he remained until his death. His Abbey was dissolved less than two weeks after his incarceration.

He was charged with high treason due to the allegation that had denied the supremacy of the King over the Church, despite his signature of the Articles of Faith. The Abbot’s trial convened on November 13, 1539, and before the day was done, he and two of the Abbey’s priests were convicted and sentenced to be hanged and drawn and quartered and then hanged. And so it was that two days after the trial, they were tied to horses and dragged around the Reading town centre and then to the gallows. At that point, they were hanged but before they died, they were each cut down and disembowelled, after which they were beheaded, and their bodies were then cut into quarters. Those body parts were put in various places within the town and the Abbey.

Their grizzly deaths are thought to have been a measure taken to convince other abbots that it is a bad idea to refuse to surrender their religious establishments. While many abbots of wealthy abbeys had failed to surrender by the time of Hugh’s arrest, all of them had acquiesced shortly after the executions.


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