An Enhancement Vision
The prime objective of the Trust is to ‘Enhance a threatened heritage community asset’, a project embarked upon in 2018, whilst continuing to maintain and manage the Abbey Buildings for heritage visitors and the local community. The Buildings are in fair condition, but access for anyone with a disability is poor and, as the Long Gallery is open to the north, most of the Buildings are only usable in the summer months. Hence the objective is to provide access for all and to make the Buildings safe, secure and warm, so that they are open year round to heritage visitors and the local community for generations to come. Fortunately, our vision is shared by many heritage specialists and organisations, importantly including the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) as the major heritage funder in England.
In 2018 our predecessors, the Friends of Abingdon Trust, decided to approach the NLHF and were advised to apply for a Resilient Heritage Project grant. The application was successful and the trust was awarded £70,000. Conservation architects and quantity surveyors tendered via the OJEU process, and Purcell Architects were appointed as lead consultants and Greenwoods as surveyors. Following competitive tendering, DCA Consultants were appointed as heritage business consultants and Cultural Consultants as mentors and evaluators.
Importantly, the project reviewed several key areas including governance and organisation, business planning, architectural planning options, community engagement and fundraising. A feasibility study was performed, including costed architectural plans – see gallery below – which budgeted a project cost of £4.5 million. The governance and organisation review recommended splitting the prior charity into two Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs), The Friends of Abingdon Civic Society and The Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust (FOAABT), enabling specialist expertise to be recruited for each charity. The separation was formalized in May 2019. The project was successfully completed in early 2019, and you can download the Executive Summary below. The NLHF then undertook a strategic review of their operations which postponed the next step for 6 months.
Click on an image to view a larger version and the gallery, and the X to close the gallery
Progress of Major Heritage Grant
The new Buildings Trust, with advice from heritage consultants and the NLHF, decided to apply for a major grant and an invitation from the NLHF was received in late 2019. After an unsuccessful bid in 2021, we were delighted to receive approval from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our second. more modest, application.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the Trust is now embarking on a major project to transform the Abbey Buildings into the premier community centre for the visual and performing arts in Abingdon.
Building on 800 years of history, the attractive mediaeval location will be upgraded to form comfortable, year round meeting, exhibition and performance spaces, with access provision for all. In addition, those visiting will be able to see and understand much more of the history of the Abbey through a new permanent exhibition.
It is planned to include new hospitality and ticket office facilities, as well as making extended use of the attractive gardens.
The Trust will be starting on a major process of consultation with our users and the wider community to define the scope and priorities for the planned redevelopment. Check back here for more information regularly.
With building work expected to start at the end of 2024, and lasting for two years, the upgraded buildings will once again be available to hire for events, meetings and private functions, with the priority given to the many local organisations that have supported this project.
Read the press release about the grant award here.