Wheelchair users visiting the Abingdon County Hall Museum were shocked to find the historic building with more than 100 steps has no lift.

Disabled people who have encountered problems visiting the museum in the Grade II listed building, are calling on the council to make the town’s history accessible to everyone.

The only disabled access to the County Hall is via an outside lift to the basement, but to visit the upstairs main gallery the only option is to climb more than 90 steps, and to access the roof another 16.

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Marea Cook, posted on the ‘Abingdon’ Facebook page after attempting to visit the museum, and said: “I am shocked that access isn’t possible and that’s seen as ok.”

She added: “Apparently, we could go and sit in the basement and ask for items to be brought down for us to look at.”

Herald Series: Basement lift and cafe of Abingdon County Hall. Picture: Google Maps. Basement lift and cafe of Abingdon County Hall. Picture: Google Maps.

Kath Tillinghast, whose husband uses a mobility scooter also commented on the Facebook post.

She said: “We don’t visit because we can’t access it. The design for a lift was turned down, but I don’t think there is even any seating if you make it up all those stairs.”

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These comments come after the museum was criticised in 2013 because plans to install a lift to the main gallery were rejected by English Heritage.

The County Hall Museum underwent a £3m refurbishment without installing a lift because English Heritage insisted extending the museum with a lift would have caused “substantial harm”.

Herald Series:

Museum manager Dan Sancisi said the museum would really like to install a lift to give everyone access.

He added that it not only blocks people in wheelchairs from visiting, but the elderly and children also struggle to climb the 90 steps to the museum.

Mr Sancisi said: “We would very much like to have a lift it is part of inclusivity and access which is important for the museum. It is something we will be trying to look at in terms of getting planning permission.”

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The museum does also offer a virtual tour online, but Mr Sancisi admitted that it is not the same.

Abingdon Mayor Andy Foulsham explained the council is currently looking into applying to English Heritage again to install a lift.

Mr Foulsham said: “We are very keen to improve accessibility. The limitations of installing a lift are very much due to its listed building status.

He added: “It depends on getting English Heritage on board.

“The lift that currently goes to the basement is designed so that if we wanted to extend it to the upper floors of the museum it would accommodate for that.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Rebecca Whittaker, she joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Rebecca covers education and news in Abingdon and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Rebecca.Whittaker@newquest.co.uk or calling 07824524333

Follow her on Twitter @RebecWhitt

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