Old Abbey House
Old Abbey House is one of Abingdon’s many heritage buildings and occupies an important site in the Town Centre Conservation Area and on the edge of the Abbey Gardens Scheduled Monument. Details of its history can be found on the Town Council website. In October 2021 (after its sale for development as a hotel) it was listed Grade 2 by Historic England. Details of the listing can be found on the H.E website.
It has lain empty and visibly deteriorating since 2014 and The Friends of Abingdon Civic Society were actively engaged from then on in trying to persuade the District Council (who own it) to preserve and find a new use for it. Details of these efforts are below.
In February 2021 it was announced that Old Abbey House had been sold to a local builder, Ede Holdings for conversion to a boutique hotel. A listed building application was submitted in December 2021(P21/V3388/LB) for a 27-bed hotel with no communal facilities: this involves substantial demolition of parts of the Building and the Civic Society and others expressed concern that this would mean the loss of significant features such as fireplaces and stained glass. Following further discussions the plans were amended to greatly reduce this damage and to require the developer to provide the Oxfordshire Building Record (OBR) with details of any such features which were removed or hidden. Subject to this, the proposal was approved in March 2022. Subsequently representatives from the Civic Society and OBR met the developer for a site visit and received further assurances about his intentions. Work is now well under way and we will seek a further visit at an appropriate stage.
The Vale of White Horse District Council gave notice to all occupants of the building and it was empty from June 2014. Three applications were made for it to be listed as an Asset of Community Value, but all were refused as was a 2014 application for Listed Building designation.
All requests for discussions about the future of the building were either refused or ignored. At the beginning of August 2020, the District Council announced that it was testing the market to see if there were any potential buyers, but in parallel would be discussing with the Civic Society whether there was a community-based alternative.
No discussions took place, so in September 2020 the Civic Society submitted a 12-page proposal to the Vale for an Arts and Community Centre. The Executive summary can be read here. Despite continued requests, the Vale refused to discuss the matter with us and in late October 2020 commercial bids were invited. The Civic Society submitted a bid, but it was not accepted and the building was sold in early 2021.
The Civic Society immediately contacted the buyers to offer support in their declared intentions to preserve the historic features of the house. They agreed to meet us, but not until the planning application was approved.