County Hall, Abingdon

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County Hall
The Hall glimpsed

County Hall stands in the centre of Abingdon in Berkshire; a grand seventeenth century shire hall, it was for many years the headquarters of the Berkshire magistrates, and from where the county was governed. Today it is a local museum, supported by Abingdon Museum Friends,[1] a registered charity.[2]


Internal view of the loggia

The hall was built between 1678–83 and was most likely designed by the stonemason Christopher Kempster, who trained with Sir Christopher Wren on St Paul's Cathedral.[3] It is built in the Baroque style and originally housed a courtroom for Assizes.[4] The hall stands on pillars with a sheltered area beneath for use as a market or other municipal functions; a feature typical of many town halls of that age, though rarely with such grandeur.

Nikolaus Pevsner said of the building: "Of the free-standing town halls of England with open ground floors this is the grandest".[5]


The museum's collections were started in 1919. The museum has permanent collections and presents temporary exhibitions several times a year. There are also smaller exhibitions on local themes that are changed every month.[6]

On 1 December 2011, with the help of British Motor Heritage,[7] the last MGB Roadster sports car off the production line in Abingdon in 1980 was lifted through a window 30 feet up, for display in the museum's main gallery from 2012.[8]

The Monks' Map of the River Thames around Abingdon in the 16th century has been held at the town's Guildhall since 1907.[9] After conservation, it has been redisplayed at County Hall from its reopening in 2012. A reproduction of the Anglo-Saxon Abingdon Sword, discovered in the river at Abingdon and held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, is also on display.

Some of the most important items in the museum are available online in an eHive database.


From 2010 to 2012, the museum and building underwent a two-year restoration programme,[10] partly funded by the National Lottery. The museum reopened on 7 July 2012.[11]

On 8 March 2013, the museum was officially reopened by the Duke of Gloucester.[12][13] A plaque was unveiled by the Duke at the museum.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about County Hall, Abingdon)


  1. Abingdon Museum Friends
  2. Abingdon Museum Friends - Registered Charity no. 1137089 at the Charity Commission
  3. Abingdon County Hall: Information for Teachers, English Heritage. Palladian Press, 2004.
  4. "Abingdon County Hall Museum". UK: English Heritage. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  5. Nikolaus Pevsner, 1966. (On Abingdon County Hall Museum homepage.)
  6. Abingdon County Hall Museum, Culture24, UK.
  7. "MGB returns to Abingdon". YouTube. British Motor Heritage. March 1, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  8. "Television news item". YouTube. BBC Oxford News. December 1, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  9. "Monks' map was commissioned by Abingdon landowner". Oxford. BBC News. 23 June 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  10. Newsletter,The Friends of Abingdon, Abingdon Museum, page 2, May 2010.
  11. Wilkinson, Ben (13 June 2012). "Abingdon's County Hall Museum to reopen next month". The Abingdon Herald (UK): p. 1. Retrieved June 17, 2012. 
  12. "Duke arrives for trio of openings". Oxford Mail. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  13. "Royal Opening for Abingdon Museum". Tourism South East. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2013.