Philippa Langley who became famous for the discovery and exhumation of King Richard III recently visited Reading to meet with politicians and history enthusiasts who hope to find the burial place of King Henry I.
King Henry I founded Reading Abbey, which was built in the wake of The White Ship disaster of 1120, which saw the heir to the throne William Adelin and other nobles drown after the ship hit a rock.
The King died after allegedly eating an excessive amount of lampreys in 1135, and his body was transferred from Normandy to Reading Abbey.
However, the Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the King’s exact burial spot remains unknown.
That hasn’t stopped enthusiasts hoping to find Henry I like Mrs Langley found Richard III in Leicester in 2012.
Mrs Langley MBE met history enthusiasts, Councillor Tony Page (Labour, Abbey), the Mayor of Reading and Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East last week (Friday, September 29).
Speaking about the visit, Mr Rodda said: “It was incredibly positive. She is absolutely passionate about the history of Reading, particularly its medieval history.
“It was a really positive meeting, she’s very interested in trying to find where King Henry is buried.
“There are some local documentary sources on where he is buried.
“It could be under part of the Abbey Ruins or at the back of St James’ Church.”
Mr Rodda thinks there is a chance Henry I could be buried in the grounds of Reading Prison, immediately next to the Abbey Ruins.
He has been campaigning for the prison, also known as Reading Gaol, to be sold to Reading Borough Council or a Reading community bidder for theatre, arts and heritage use.
Mr Rodda argued the possible discovery of Henry I would be a boon for the campaign, stating that part of the prison could contain a small museum about Henry I and the history of the Abbey; if the council or a community group ever obtains ownership of the Prison.
He said: “Henry I could be buried under the Prison, it’s quite possible his remains may still be in Reading.
“Part of the reason I’m campaigning to save the Gaol is so that people can try and find his remains as well.
“We would like to develop some way of remembering him and his contribution to Reading, so people can come to the Prison to learn about King Henry and Oscar Wilde.”
However, the prospect of the Prison being brought into community use is looking increasingly unlikely, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and prisons minister Damian Hinds have confirmed that the sale of the prison to a developer is progressing.
That is despite a petition by Mr Rodda calling for the prison to be turned over to community use gaining 13,061 signatures.
Meanwhile, efforts to find the King’s burial place are being undertaken by The Hidden Abbey Project.
The Project states that excavation works to attempt to find the King’s body would cost £55,000.