Bryan Brown, Chairman of The Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust, sets the scene for this Spring’s Abingdon Beer Festival
2022 ABINGDON BEER FESTIVAL: Friday 8th, Saturday 9th April, from 6 to 11pm, and Sunday 11th April from 1 to 4pm.
Abingdon on Thames is a very historic town, the longest continually inhabited town in England and the county town of Berkshire until 1867 with a magnificent County Hall and 300 architecturally listed buildings at its centre. At the core of its heritage is the great Abbey of Abingdon; in medieval times it was the 6th largest and one off the richest abbeys in the country with the church of St Mary almost the size of Westminster Abbey. It hosted many kings and queens including William the Conqueror for hunting and Henry VIII who visited 4 times. As I like to say to my Oxford friends; Abingdon was a far more important place than Oxford!
Two distinct activities loom large in its history; first the Abbey founded in the 7th century and by the 13th century they were the ‘billionaires’ of the time, major landowners and the authority of the area. However, in 1538 the ecclesiastical buildings were demolished in the reformation leaving only the commercial buildings, today’s Abbey Buildings. Second was brewing and malting which created wealth for the town over the next centuries.
Brewing and malting has taken place at Abingdon Abbey for over 1,000 years. Initiated by the monks for their own consumption, up to a gallon (8 pints) a day – the amount we hope will be drunk by visitors to the Beer Festival! Shortly after the Dissolution the remaining buildings were developed as the Abbey Brewery, a major malthouse and brewery in the town. Beer continued to be brewed on the site of the Abingdon Beer Festival for some 300 years until it was merged with Moorlands in the 1860s.
The Abingdon Beer Festival, now in its 5th year is a tradition revived; organised with the support of the Loose Cannon Brewery, itself a revival of an Abingdon brewing tradition. The Festival is held in the remaining Abbey Buildings which are now a nationally scheduled monument and grade 1 listed. In 1944 they were saved from demolition by the charity The Friends of Abingdon, who have continued to own and maintain them for over 75 years. Although the Buildings are wonderfully atmospheric and contain the only theatre in the town, the Unicorn, there is much to do to make them more accessible and functional.
So, do come and join us in these atmospheric buildings for an unusual experience whilst enjoying over 30 Oxfordshire ales. These Buildings need to pay for themselves, so all profits go towards supporting these medieval buildings. The Friends are undertaking a project, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery to realise a vision of making the Abbey Buildings secure for generations to come, useable for twelve months of the year, more accessible and continue to provide a great venue for weddings and events which include am/dram, music and the Unicorn Cinema. Also to create an exciting visitor attraction animating over 1,000 years of history for the benefit of the Abingdon community and to attract more visitors to the town.
Chairman, The Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust
Copyright February 2022