PLANS to restore a historic building in Abingdon are finally being put to action after years of fundraising.

In 2018, plans for a major refurbishment of Abingdon's Abbey buildings were first unveiled with heating and lighting to make the space usable year-round and improvements so it was accessible to all.

The Friends of Abingdon Civic Society, which own and has looked after the building since the 1940s, put in a bid with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and spent the initial £70,000 grant on a feasibility study.

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Following its success, the society was invited to apply for a major grant, the first stage of which is a development plan, costing an estimated £340,000, but to no avail.

However, a second grant from the National Lottery Heritage fund has now been received enabling Abingdon’s Abbey Buildings Trust to preserve and enhance Abingdon’s oldest and ‘most important heritage’ community buildings.

Development funding of £256,000 has been awarded by the Heritage Fund which will enable the charitable trust to progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

The planning work will start early in 2023 and will take two years. The Abbey Buildings are the last remains of the great medieval Abbey of Abingdon, once the 6th richest abbey in England but mainly demolished in the Reformation of 1538.

The charity saved the buildings from demolition in 1944 and have developed them into an important community asset containing the town centre’s only theatre, the Unicorn.

The Abbey Buildings are used by a wide range of community groups, as well as hosting heritage visitors.

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However, usage is limited by accessibility issues and inadequate services and heating, meaning the buildings can only be used during the warmer months of the year.

Due to the National Lottery players, the project aims to make the buildings fully accessible, weather-tight and with adequate modern services to allow for all-year use.

Commenting on the award, Bryan Brown, chairman of the trust said: “We are delighted to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players.

“The buildings, including the Unicorn Theatre, are a vital community asset and it is great to know that we are a step closer to making them accessible for all, for generations to come.”

Stuart McLeod, Director England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, added: “At the Heritage Fund, we know how important heritage is to bring communities together.

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“Thanks to National Lottery players, we have given our initial support to the Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust and look forward to working with them ahead of their full grant application.”


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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