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A History of Cosener’s

The Cosener’s House is the conference & accommodation centre of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. It stands south of the site of Abingdon Abbey, divided from the abbey precincts by the millstream. The oldest part of the present building is the central portion, which dates from the mid eighteenth century. The east wing dates back to the nineteenth century while the rest is modern.


The house itself is thought to have occupied the site of the Cuisinier’s Inn, mentioned in sixteenth and seventeenth century documents. This stood near the Cosener’s Bridge & Gatehouse. The garden seems to have been an orchard and the site of the purpose built conference suite is referred to as the mill                              garden & mill orchard.


The name Cosener’s derives from the Cuisinier (or Kitchener); an official of the Abbey, whose function was to provide stores for the Abbey kitchens. This was an important post, for the Abbey fed not only the monks,       but also many visitors.


According to deed plans, the present vehicle bridge was built at the end of the nineteenth century. Prior to this time, there was a bridge situated between the two existing bridges, which was the original Cosener’s Bridge.


In 1549, by a crown lease, William Blacknall acquired The Cosener’s Inn along with the fulling mills. In 1553, he also bought the site of the Abbey, arranging for the demolition of most of its buildings by 1579. During that time, he gained the mills from the Town Councils more or less in exchange for the Abbey Gatehouse & St John’s Chapel - the mills being sold by his grandson, John, in 1613.


During the late sixteenth century, The Cosener’s Inn was leased to Francis Brooks Alias Little, who was four times mayor of Abingdon and once a Member of Parliament. It is unlikely that he lived there, for the site was under let to Robert Mayoutt. At that time, the site consisted of the Cosener’s Inn, a walled garden to the south and a court between it and the millstream, flanked by a dove house and the Cosener’s Gatehouse. By 1622, the dove house had been converted into dwelling and the term Cosener’s Orchard is now used  for the present garden.


John Blackwell, whose tomb can be found in St Nicholas Church, died in 1625. He left a daughter, Mary, aged 9 1/2 years old; she was made a ward of the crown. In 1628, her wardship was acquired by Edmund Verney, who married her to his son, Ralph, a year later. Thus, the ownership of the abbey site passed into the hands of the Verney family.


In 1648, the Cosener’s Inn was sold to John Mayott. In 1701, Jeremiah Harman, bought the house and sometime between 1720 and 1797, when a deed describes the site, the older part of the present building was erected.


By 1824, John Francis Spenlove occupied the site and later by Mary Spenlove; both of whom had an interest in the brewery, which had close links with The Cosener’s House. At that time however, the house was called the Abbey and continued under that name until quite recently with the brewery, which had close links with the Cosener’s House. This, with the brewery, came into the hands of the Moorland Family in the 1850’s and was the base of the well-known brewer’s. The brewery building stood immediately across the stream from The Cosener’s House, next to the footbridge. On its east stood the Cosener’s Bridge now gone. The house on the corner of the footpath was occupied by the manager of the brewery, William Andersen, and the buildings around it were used as stores. The area of the present public car park was occupied by a wharf, wharf buildings and a garden with two small houses next to the mill stream on the east of The Cosener’s Bridge.


In 1894, the Hon F. G.L, Wood & his wife purchased the Cosener’s House. The brewery was taken down and the site turned into a stable yard. Sometime before 1873, the east wing was erected with a further extension eastwards between 1899 and 1913. Dame Flora Bliss, wife of Sir Henry Bliss of the Indian Civil Service, purchased the House and mill in 1905. After their deaths, it was sold in 1919 to C.Scoldman, who then sold it in 1922 to Major General E.J Cooper. The property was taken over by the Ministry of Supply in 1948 passing to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1961.

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