The King’s Head and Bell on East Saint Helen’s Street in Abingdon has been closed since Autumn 2007. It is a historical coaching inn in one of the oldest streets in Abingdon. I believe the reason for its closure was structural damage making it too dangerous to continue using.
Last year it was purchased by Foundation Inns, who applied for planning permission to renovate it. The plans can be seen by visiting the Vale of White Horse District Council’s Planning permission web site and entering reference number as 08/00939/FUL
Work has been proceeding over the last few months, including demolition company, electricians and plasterers, and skip loads of junk were appearing outside. A week or so ago, work stopped.
Following various rumours going around town ranging from ‘its going to be demolished’ to ‘its turning into a wine bar’ and speculation of it getting mixed up with the Old Gaol development, none of which matched up with what Foundation Inns is all about, or what the planning permission application stated. So I wrote an email to the directors of Foundation Inns to try to get more information.
I received two replies, one from Gavin Drew the Commercial & Finance Director, and another from Ian Grundy the managing director. These replies say that work is now complete on making the building structurally safe, but due to the current market situation the plans need to be scaled down a bit, so requires re-applying for planning permission. It should open this summer or autumn and will be a traditional pub with real ales and reasonably priced food. The full replies are at the end of this article.
I think this will be a very good thing for Abingdon if it goes to plan. It is in a touristy part of town, has a nice courtyard/beer garden. It is one of the few pubs in Abingdon that is not controlled by Greene King (the others being the Stocks Bar and the Nags head). Prior to its closure it was falling into disrepair and was not attractive to tourists. I have watched several times as tourists walked up East Saint Helens street, admired the architecture and history of the building, wandered in and immediately came back out again.
Here are the actual responses I received from Foundation Inns:
Gavin Drew wrote:
Thank you for your interest in the Kings Head and Bell.
We can confirm that we are looking to develop the site in the near future but will probably scale down the development against the approved plans given current market conditions. However, we are confident that we will establish a premises that Abingdon can be proud of.
Cask ales will be part of the offer along with a good selection of other product ranges and we will be introducing a good food offering at reasonable prices.
We have to go back through listed building / planning consents so is difficult to predict when the works may start/finish but ideally we are looking to late Summer/Autumn if all goes well with planning etc.
Thank you once again for your interest and we look forward to welcoming you as a customer when we re-open.
Many thanks – Gavin.
Commercial & Finance Director
Ian Grundy replied with:
Dear Mr Green
We have now completed phase 1 of the project to re-instate the Kings Head and Bell as a fantastic traditional pub. This involved replacing many of the central supporting beams, which had disintegrated to such an extent that 2 had completely broken, causing considerable movement, and for the building to be considered unsafe.
This now being completed the building is again safe and ready for the trading areas to be developed back to a level that we can be proud of. We met with our designers, QS etc at the site on Monday, and subject agreement with planning and listed buildings, we hope to commence work within the next 6 – 10 weeks and to open Autumn / early winter this year.
Yes – real ale will be an important part of our offering.
Hope this is the information you were looking for and I look forward to seeing you when we open