AN historic building in the middle of Abingdon which has lain empty for years is set to become a boutique hotel.

Old Abbey House has been empty since 2014, and its future has been hotly debated by Vale of White Horse District Council over the last few years.

Now, the council has revealed it will sell the building for £927,000 to a Witney-based development company called Ede Holdings.

The company hopes now to turn the 18th century building into a 20-bedroom hotel.

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A press statement from the council said these plans will ‘create jobs for local residents and help to reinforce the historic town’s status as a tourist destination’.

Daniel Ede, from the company, said: “We’re delighted acquire such a fantastic building in the centre of historic Abingdon. We are very much looking forward to working with the planners to come up with an appropriate hotel scheme, whilst also restoring the building to its former glory. The proposed hotel will ensure that the freehold of the building remains intact and that it will be maintained into the future.”

Mr Ede has previously been involved in the Four Pillars Hotel Group, which owns hotels including the Oxford Thames, Oxford Spires, Cotswold Water Park and Tortworth Court.

Old Abbey House, Abingdon, will be turned into a boutique hotel. Ed Nix

Old Abbey House, Abingdon, will be turned into a boutique hotel. Ed Nix

He added: “We want to work closely with other local businesses and people, and initially will be looking for a local laundry provider and a local baker for fresh morning produce, as well as cleaning staff.”

The company hopes to use the building’s existing footprint for the new hotel and has said it will protect its fabric and status, even though it is not listed.

It also plans to restore original features to the building, which first began life as the home of a prominent local businessman called James Smallbone in the 1780s.

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It has been remodelled since, and was once home to the Bishop of Reading.

Vale of White Horse District Council chose its preferred bidder in December 2020, but kept the details of this private until now.

Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “After standing empty for many years, I am so pleased the council has found a way to bring the much-loved Old Abbey House back into use and secure its future at the heart of Abingdon."

“We’re delighted a local company with the expertise in historical properties will restore the building and create a unique hotel that will help attract visitors to Abingdon town centre, as well as provide new jobs.”

Daniel Ede, of Ede Holdings, the company which wants to transform Old Abbey House into a boutique hotel. Picture: Ed Nix

Daniel Ede, of Ede Holdings, the company which wants to transform Old Abbey House into a boutique hotel. Picture: Ed Nix

Senior councillors have spoken several times about how keeping the building in public ownership would be unsustainable because maintenance costs have spiralled.

There were hopes from some that the building could be repurposed as a community facility, with Abingdon resident Julie Kelly setting up a petition to save the house and use it as the town’s ‘village hall’.

Ms Kelly said she was disappointed it wouldn’t be used this way, but was glad it would be put to use.

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The Friends of Abingdon Civic Society had been calling for the building to be brought back into use for years, and had bid to take it on as a community hall.

Hester Hand, from the society, said: “The Civic Society is glad that a future has been identified for this very special building which will enable it to add to the vitality of this part of the town. We are also pleased that the developers intend to protect its original features and that the garden will remain part of Abingdon’s public open space.

“We hope that something can now be done about the derelict Upper Reaches Hotel which gives such a bad impression as people arrive in the town.”

Old Abbey House is not the only building being converted into a hotel: Boswells and Debenhams in central Oxford are also being repurposed in this way.

Meanwhile, Oxford's Museum Hotel is being converted into flats after a 'disastrous year' due to Covid.