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. The next process is in two stages, Round 1/Development and Round 2/Delivery. Each stage requires the applicant to raise matched funding. The trust was fortunate in receiving grants from national heritage bodies such as the Architectural Heritage Fund, local heritage funds and Abingdon Town Council. Local community support was very strong and the Trust had reached its matched funding goal and had completed the application when the first COVID 19 lockdown occurred and the NLHF halted all grants to concentrate on administering emergency funds.
During early 2020 the Buildings were closed, as were all heritage sites, so the Trust received no income whilst incurring running costs, administrating cancellations and postponements, and the continued need to police the Buildings due to security concerns in the town centre location. Our trust has managed to secure some emergency grant funding. The NLHF have indicated that they will reopen for heritage grants in the Spring of 2021.