The search for King Henry I

Round & About

Reading Borough Council needs volunteers to take on role of costumed historical characters 

Do you have what it takes to be Henry I or Jane Austen?

Reading Museum is once again on the search for outgoing volunteers interested in taking on the role of costumed historical characters in the Abbey Quarter over the summer. 

The museum is keen to recruit male volunteers to take on the role of medieval monks as well as looking for Tudor women, a Georgian school pupil and someone to take on the leading roles of Jane Austen and King Henry I. 

They are also trying to find people to play supporting roles and get involved behind the scenes as wardrobe assistants to the historical characters. 

The volunteer recruitment drive follows on from the successful debut of the historical characters last year, where King Henry I, Empress Matilda, Queen Elizabeth and a medieval laundress, among others, helped bring the history of the Abbey Quarter to life at its reopening in June. 

Reading Museum Costumed Interpreters 

The role of ‘costumed interpreter’ involves interacting with visitors to the Abbey Quarter, to help bring the rich history of the area alive. 

By role playing the characters, volunteers will help people understand and empathise with the lives of the people who lived, visited or worked in the Abbey Quarter. 

Volunteers will be given replica period costumes to wear, as well advice on how to carry out research into their character and learn fact-based historical information to share with the public. 

No experience of drama is necessary, although the role is suited to enthusiastic, outgoing and friendly people, who like working as a team, are happy to wear a costume, stay in character and interact positively with members of the public. 

The role would involve a flexible commitment over some Saturdays and on the occasional weekday. 

Jen Woodhams, who volunteer interprets as Empress Matilda, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to do something completely out of the ordinary. I like the fact you can do as much or as little as you can to fit it in around your everyday life. I find the research side fascinating as you get to understand so much about the period your character comes from. I also love the way the museum encourages you to develop the role independently as it gives you a great deal of creative scope. The best part is engaging people and bringing Reading’s history to life for them and of course, it is immense fun dressing up in such a lovely costume!” 

View an interview with Jen below

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “Our historical characters were extremely well received by visitors to the Abbey Quarter last year, and we are keen to expand on this success again. 

“This is a great opportunity for people to get involved in the Abbey Quarter and really help us bring history to life. If you think you could share your love of history with our visitors, this volunteer opportunity has the potential to offer loads of fun and a great experience.” 

  To find out more about the volunteer roles on offer visit