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The Hospitium
St. Laurence's Churchyard, Reading
 
 
The Hospitium of St. John was founded in 1189, when the original Abbey guesthouse was found to be too small for the increasing numbers of pilgrims journeying to the Abbey and the Shrine of St. James' Hand. A large complex of buildings stood on the site of the present Town Hall, and included "retirement-homes" for the local poor as well as dining and reception rooms for visitors. They were connected by a small wooden cloister to a chapel in the north aisle of St. Laurence's Church. The dormitories spread at right-angles to this into the Forbury where the main block can still be seen today.

It is hard to imagine that this elegant little building off St. Laurence's Churchyard could once house the best part of four hundred visitors. They were offered free board and lodging for two nights, but were then expected to pay their way. The institution fell into disrepute in the late medieval period and was converted to a Grammar School (now 'Reading School') in 1485. The buildings then passed through a variety of uses until their educational role was revived at the end of the 19th century as the home of 'University College, Reading' now Reading University. The dormitory is currently used as offices.

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