Shortly after VE-Day, in April 1945, a small enclosed plot of land was given by Mr James Lyell, a solicitor living at The Knowl in Stert Street. This land, described as stable-yard and premises, lay to the north of the Checker. Its sole access was over the car park of the Baptist chapel, a right of way which proved to be a source of trouble for many years. Another small plot of land, immediately to the north of the gardens of the Thames Street cottages and now corresponding roughly to the Friends’ car park, had been the site of a cottage, No 13 The Abbey. The owner, Miss Selina Rogers of Sheen, sold the plot for £30. Abingdon Coaches operated their business from a garage at the bottom of Checker Walk, and had become accustomed to using this derelict land for turning and parking their vehicles. This, too, proved to be a source of trouble for many years.
The final transaction was the gift in 1948 by Mr Dugdale of a cellar running under the easternmost Thames Street cottage, together with an adjoining small garden against the west wall of the Checker. This led to a series of misunderstandings and recriminations later.
The old brewery yard immediately to the north of the Long Gallery and Checker was not included in the land conveyed to the Friends by Abingdon Municipal Charities and Morlands Brewery, but was clearly essential to the use of the buildings. This omission was corrected on the recent Land Registry plan of the property.
These transactions completed the acquisition, by purchase and by gift, of the range of abbey buildings from the Curator’s cottage to the Long Gallery, and also the strip of land to the north of these buildings.
The first priority after the Friends had acquired the Thames Street cottages was to make them weatherproof and secure – and to call in the Borough ratcatcher. The next step was to convert the three cottages to the west of the covered passage or slype into an office and “rest room” at street level, and a caretaker’s cottage above. Progress was delayed by wartime regulations requiring licences to be obtained for materials and labour. Some materials were recovered from the derelict stable on Mr Lyell’s plot and the barn on Morlands’ plot. Boards were taken from over the Long Gallery cellar to repair the caretaker’s sitting room floor. There were many problems over the delays and price over-runs of the small building firm – to be repeated with other such firms in the coming years.
The grant from the Pilgrim Trust made possible not only the purchase of the Checker and Long Gallery but also some preliminary work on the interior of the four cottages between the slype and the Checker. The ancient doorway into the upper floor of the Checker was reopened and some of the internal walls were removed, which showed the potential of this building as a hall for lectures.