Abbot Hall to reopen in 2023

The place for art

The place for art

The place for art

Abbot Hall is one of Britain’s preeminent small art galleries, set in a beautifully restored Grade I-listed Georgian house on the banks of the River Kent in Kendal. Our gallery holds an exceptional collection of 18th-20th century fine art and runs an imaginative temporary exhibition programme throughout the year.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the redevelopment of Abbot Hall important? 

Abbot Hall has been a part of Kendal’s history for over 250 years. This Grade I listed building was the family home of Colonel George Wilson of Dallam Tower. Built in 1759, Abbot Hall changed hands several times before it was sold in 1897 to Kendal Borough Council who wanted to transform the grounds into a public park. 

With the building largely neglected, Abbot Hall deteriorated and by the 1950s it faced certain demolition. Determined to save this iconic building and secure its long-term future, a group of local people came together to form a charitable trust (Lake District Art Gallery Trust) to raise enough money to save this historic house.  

The Lakeland Arts Trust (now Lakeland Arts) restored Abbot Hall and opened it as an art gallery in 1962, giving a home to the nationally significant Lakeland Arts Collection. Since then, Lakeland Arts has continued to lease Abbot Hall from South Lakeland District Council who own the building. 

The building continues to be an important place for the residents of Kendal and home to many local community memories. We believe it is important to build on this legacy for future generations. 

Is Abbot Hall permanently closed?
No. Abbot Hall is temporarily closed for a phased redevelopment of the site. Phase I of the refurbishment works is set to begin in summer 2022. The redevelopment project is being managed by the building’s owner, South Lakeland District Council (SLDC). 

When will Abbot Hall open again to the public?
SLDC’s timeline for the redevelopment works means we will be able to open the gallery in 2023. The gallery will open with an exhibition by land artist Julie Brook.   

What is Phase I of the redevelopment project?
The first phase of the project will include work on the building’s electrics, necessary redecoration and flooring work. Subsequent phases will be informed by the first phase and ongoing community consultation throughout 2022 and 2023. At present we do not have reopening dates scheduled for the Abbot Hall café or Lakeland Museum.  

What has been happening with the building since it has been closed?
In addition to works regarding the redevelopment, dedicated and skilled members of the Lakeland Arts curatorial team has undertaken a decant of the Lakeland Arts Collection in Abbot Hall, The Old Grammar School and Lakeland Museum. This has been a huge and important task.  

Abbot Hall’s permanent collection is nationally important – what are your plans to care for, develop and showcase it? 

The wonderful Lakeland Arts curatorial team began a decant of a huge number of objects from our collections at Abbot Hall. This has been a mammoth undertaking, but an important and valuable job for Lakeland Arts, as the full collection has been thoroughly audited and carefully stored, giving us more information to research individual pieces in the hopes of making more of the collection accessible to the public in the future. 

In the last ten months we have acquired Moon Form by Barbara Hepworth, two drawings by Charmaine Watkiss and a painted screen by George Romney. Lakeland Arts remains committed to the ongoing development of the collection. 

We are looking forward to displaying more of our collection in new and engaging ways throughout the building once it reopens and look forward to sharing more information about our 2023-24 plans with you later this year. 

What is planned for future programming at Abbot Hall, once it reopens? 

Our programming team is working on an exciting new programme for 2023 and beyond. 
Our first exhibition will be a new outdoor commission and exhibition by the brilliant land artist Julie Brook. 

Can you tell us more about the Julie Brook exhibition? 

The exhibition will be a multimedia experience featuring Julie’s work in the UK, Japan, Namibia and Libya. The commission includes a new site-specific work on the Abbot Hall site using stone from a local quarry. We’ve also invited Julie to select and curate works from our fine art collection to sit alongside her work. 

Julie studied art at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. Since 1989, she has been living and working in remote landscapes in Scotland including Orkney, Jura, the uninhabited island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides, and Skye, where she lives. She is drawn to remote, often uninhabited spaces that inspire her work.

Julie creates atmospheric large-scale, transient sculptural pieces in outside settings, using, natural materials at hand and also creates drawings and films as part of her practice. We are thrilled to be working with her.  

Are you going to do more major exhibitions? 

We intend to, yes. We have applied for funding to continue to commission more artists, create exhibitions to bring the very best possible programming to Kendal. 

Are there plans to work with local artists? 

Absolutely, yes. Lakeland Arts is committed to working with the local community and local artists and makers in future programming. We’ve recently commissioned work by Maddie Humberstone, Rosie Galloway-Smith as well as Charlie Whinney Studio and Plaey.  

We are currently displaying work by James Fox at Blackwell and Barbara Nicholls at Windermere Jetty Museum. We are looking forward to upcoming projects with artists Amy Williams and Paul Scott, plus several others soon to be announced. 

We’ve done call outs to work with several local artists at our other venues and, funding dependent, we hope to do something similar at Abbot Hall.  

Have another question for us?  

We’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch with us on info@lakelandarts.org.uk

Keep in touch

Abbot Hall is currently closed for redevelopment of the building and the surrounding grounds.

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Abbot Hall, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 5AL

How to get here

From the south

Exit the M6 at junction 36 and follow the A590 to South Lakes. Take the South Kendal (A6) exit and follow the signs for the town centre. Abbot Hall Art Gallery is the first right after the Parish Church. Kendal has a one-way system so if you miss the turn, you need to loop around the town via Aynam Road.

From the north

Exit the M6 at junction 37, turning onto the A684. Follow signs to Kendal. Turn left onto Park Side Road. At the end of the road turn right onto Lound Road. Stay in the right-hand lane as you cross the small bridge over the River Kent.   Keep in the right-hand lane as you enter the town centre. Abbot Hall Art Gallery is the first right after the Parish Church. Kendal has a one ways system so if you miss the turn, you need to loop around the town via Aynam Road.

The nearest mainline railway station is Oxenholme. A connecting train will bring you to Kendal railway station. From here, Abbot Hall is one mile. Plan your journey by train.

There are local bus services that run throughout the lakes to Kendal. All traffic through Kendal town centre is via a one-way system so buses from Kendal Bus Station pass Abbot Hall on the other side of the river. Catch Service 41/41A or 42/42A to Lakeland Museum and use the footbridge opposite to get to the other side of the river. Lakeland Museum is less than a 10-minute walk and located behind Abbot Hall. Plan your journey by bus.

You can walk to Abbot Hall from the town centre in approximately 10 minutes. The gallery can be found behind Lakeland Museum if walking along the road from the town centre.

Local taxis

Please use local pay and display carparks in Kendal.

  • Peppercorn Lane: LA9 5AF
  • Kendal Parish Church: LA9 5FB
  • Kendal Bowman: LA9 4AQ
  • Brewery Arts Centre: LA9 4HE
  • SLDC multi storey: LA9 4DX
  • Westmorland Shopping Centre: LA9 4PU
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