A £3.5M pound vision for a new cinema and theatre at Abingdon’s historic Guildhall has been unveiled.

The £3.5m project will see the 15th century building and its 1966 extension transformed into a “social and cultural hub”.

Architects from Berkshire-based Lewandowski Willcox have revealed drawings for a 100-seat cinema, a renovation of Abbey Hall with new theatre seating for 150 to 200 people, and a new cafe-bar with an outdoor terrace.

Guildhall manger Johannah Aynsley said: “It is a tired old building, full of goodwill and spirit, but without the capacity to fulfil its potential.

“We have the chance now to create something really wonderful for people to enjoy.”

The cinema will show both blockbuster releases and independent films.

Abingdon Town Council, which has owned the Guildhall since 2011, plans to run the cinema.

The vision aims to make the Guildhall more inviting and accessible by creating a new entrance in Bridge Street as well as the main entrance from Abbey Close.

The ground floor of the building will be dropped by several metres meaning the stairs at the Abbey Close entrance can be ripped out.

Architect Dan Lewandow-ski said: “The Guildhall transformation is going to be huge and bring it into the 21st century.

“One of the big aims was to open up the building so it will be fully accessible to everyone, with disabled access to the cinema too.”

Iain Littlejohn, the chairman of the committee overseeing the project, said: “We are very excited about it and the drawings and plans coming together.

“A cinema particularly is one of the things most wanted in Abingdon, so it is great to be able to do something about it.”

Abingdon Town Council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “There is a bigger picture to this too.

“It is about Abingdon’s development.

“As a town it will be great to have a state-of-the-art social and cultural centre.

“It will really look the part. If you stand in the market place and turn from the new precinct to the restored museum and then the Guildhall, it will really bring everything together.”

A £4.5m revamp of Abingdon’s shopping precinct was finished in December and a £3m renovation of County Hall Museum completed in July.

Restoration work on the 15th century part of the Guildhall has already been completed and the new plans concentrate on the 1960s extension.

The cinema will be an extension on stilts at the back.

A public consultation starts on Thursday together with a plea for public donations.

Residents will be asked how they would like the project to move forwards – out of six different options.

Plan A would mean the full project could be completed by the end of 2014 but the full £3.5m would need to be raised soon.

Other options would stagger the development into phases until the full funds are raised.

So far the town council has secured £1m and is in the process of fundraising and securing grants. Building work is aimed to start in 2014.


CONSULTATIONS on the plans are being held as follows:

  • Thursday, April 18, Guildhall’s Abbey Hall, Abbey Place, from 7.30pm
  • Saturday, April 20, also in Guildhall’s Abbey Hall, from 10.30am
  • Saturday, April 20, Abingdon Market Place, 10.30am to 4pm
  • Sunday, April 21, Tesco Extra, Marcham Road, Abingdon, 10.30am to 4pm
  • Sunday, April 28, Waitrose, Abbey Close, Abingdon, 10.30am to 4pm