Abbot Hall Redevelopment

The new Abbot Hall

Looking to the future and Abbot Hall’s 60th anniversary in 2022, Lakeland Arts is embarking on a major redevelopment of the Abbot Hall site to ensure it thrives for a further 60 years and more.

Visitors will experience and interact with world class art in redesigned modern exhibition galleries. The remodelled spaces will allow us to exhibit more work, collaborate with a greater range of artists and galleries and show more of our own nationally recognised collection.

With improved accessibility and imaginative landscaping that will enhance the connection of the site with the river and parkland, Abbot Hall will be a vibrant space everyone can enjoy.

The creation of Abbot Hall’s first dedicated Learning Space is key to our aim for increased engagement with our community. The new café provides a space to meet, relax and socialise that will generate income for the charity and make Abbot Hall more sustainable.

To make this historic site fit for the 21st century we will carry out essential works to the 16th century former grammar school and modify the stables and coach house to become the central shop and ticketing space giving visitors a warm welcome on arrival.

Bringing great art to Cumbria

From its humble beginnings, saved from demolition by the local community who raised funds to transform the Georgian mansion into an “Art Gallery for the Lake District” in 1962, Abbot Hall has built a national an international reputation for showing artists of the highest quality. Our experienced team develop shows that shed new light on artists, movements and periods such as, Elisabeth Frink, LS Lowry and JMW Turner, Pop Art and the St Ives Group, as well as offering new opportunities for contemporary artists. In recent years, we have partnered with national organisations to display Claude Monet, Haystacks: Snow Effect (1891) from the National Galleries of Scotland, Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) from the National Gallery London and Rodin’s masterpiece The Thinker (1880-81) from the Burrell Collection with the support of the British Museum.

In the new gallery spaces, we will be bolder and more ambitious. We will collaborate with artists and communities to curate impactful exhibitions which address, respond to and bring together different voices on issues affecting society today.

Collection care for future generations

Abbot Hall’s art collection is widely regarded as one of the most important and largest collections in the north of England. It includes oil paintings, works on paper, sculpture and photography, from the historic, to the modern and contemporary.

The collection includes important work by locally-born George Romney including his masterpiece The Gower Family (1776-77), watercolours by John Ruskin and JMW Turner including his magnificent The Passage of Mount St Gothard (1804). We have a strong modern collection including works by Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney and Paula Rego. The Gallery holds a significant group of works by the German refugee Modernist artist Kurt Schwitters, which he created during the final years of his life in Cumbria.

The redeveloped galleries will enable us to create a dialogue between historic, modern and contemporary art through thematic displays. This will enable us to show key loans alongside works in Lakeland Arts Trust’s collection.

Closer to the community

Abbot Hall was founded by local people and has made a major contribution to the cultural and artistic life of Kendal, Cumbria and the north of England since it opened in 1962. The new Abbot Hall is a catalyst for engaging local audiences more deeply, reaching new people and broadening access to the collection in innovative ways. The new Learning Space will provide vital facilities to welcome school and community groups. It will link directly to Abbot Hall’s gallery spaces, improving visitors’ understanding of the exhibitions and collection. It will be a safe space for families and for vulnerable members of the community, and it will serve as a lively space for younger users, encouraging creative play.

Our Team

Our award winning team reflects our ambition for The Abbot Hall Project.

MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight Architects); Shortlisted, RIBA Stirling Prize 2018; Winner, RIBA North West Building of the Year 2015 - lead architect
Julian Harrap Architects – conservation architects
Ove Arup – mechanical and electrical engineer
Eckersley O’Callaghan – structural engineer
Sarah Price Landscapes; Gold medal winner, Chelsea Flower Show 2018 – landscape architect


We anticipate the redevelopment beginning in spring 2020 with a view to the new Abbot Hall opening in 2022.

Lakeland Arts will consult with planning officers, special interest and community groups so that it listens to a range of voices and opinions as it finalises the proposals for this sensitive and significant site.


We are planning an £9.6 million investment and are delighted to have secured £5 million from our major funder, Arts Council England. We are working to raise a further £4.6million from trusts, foundations and individual donors and have secured generous support from the DCMS Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, the Lakeland Arts Support Trust and private donations.


Abbot Hall was founded by local people and relies on the support and generosity of the community to continue to contribute to the cultural and artistic life of Kendal. If you would like to help make the new Abbot Hall a reality, every donation of any amount will make a difference.

For more information please contact us by telephone on 01539 722464 or email

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