The Saga of the Abbey Barn (1986-1987)

Abbey Barn had a long and illustrious past. It was probably built to house workers engaged in dismantling the Abbey and transferring the building materials to build Oatlands Palace. It was in the Chapter House that the Book of Common Prayer was drafted in 1548. From that time until 1800 the Barn was probably used as Royal stabling between Hampton Court and Windsor, as part of Beomond Manor Farm (ref. Bernard Pardoe), and in 1900 it was a builder’s yard.
In 1935, J.A. Tulk purchased the Barn and the land around it to stop it being developed as houses. The following year the Abbey Barn Youth Club was formed and thrived for the following thirty years under the Trusteeship of Surrey County Council. Unfortunately, in 1970 the Youth Club closed and moved to the CANLO Club, Abbey Moor, next to The Meads School. The Abbey Barn remained empty until 1975 when it’s sale and redevelopment into two houses was proposed. Mary Fitzhugh lobbied hard for its retention for public use, and formed the Runnymede Association of Arts (RAA) with the intention of securing Abbey Barn as an Arts Centre for the town’s youth.
In 1978, Surrey County Council sold the Barn to the Acorn Children’s Theatre Trust for £10,000. This was below the market value since the Charity Commission agreed that the Acorn’s aims for the building were similar to Tulk’s intentions. The Acorn trustees, chaired by Stanley Davey, included Prof. Alfred and Mrs Therese Kitchen from Shepperton, and Brian Love. In 1981, Abbey Barn Cottage was sold by Acorn for £20,000.
An open air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was staged in June 1982, and the Barn continued to be used for classes and rehearsals until 1986. During that time an unsuccessful appeal was launched by Acorns for £250,000 to restore barn (1983), but finally in 1987 the building was put up for auction. With the backing of RBC, The Chertsey Society tried to buy Abbey Barn at the auction with a view to restoring the barn and converting it into dwellings which would be sold to recoup the loan used to acquire the Barn, but with the land being retained in public ownership as a butterfly garden. On the day of the auction a Trust Deed was signed between RBC and The Society, and Malcolm Loveday, on behalf of the Trust, bid up to their limit of £235,000, but was outbid. The Trust was dissolved after the auction.
Abbey Barn was purchased by Richard Cook Ltd. for £267,000 with the Abbey Tiles from the Barn interior being donated to Chertsey Museum. From 1990 to the present day the Abbey Barn has been used as offices.