Industrially, Abingdon is best known as the location of manufacture of MG cars (1929–1980). The Pavlova leather works, now closed down, used to be a major employer. Abingdon was home to the Morland Brewery, whose most famous ale was Old Speckled Hen, named after an MG car. Greene King bought Morland for £182M in 1999 and operations were moved to Bury St Edmunds. The site of the brewery has now been redeveloped into residential housing.
Today Abingdon is close to several major scientific employers the UKAEA at Culham (including the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion research project), Harwell Laboratory, the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the new Diamond Light Source synchrotron, which is the largest UK-funded scientific facility to be built for over 40 years. Many inhabitants work in Oxford or commute by rail to London, from nearby Didcot. The Army now occupies Dalton Barracks, which, prior to 1993, was the Royal Air Force station, RAF Abingdon.
Abingdon has a business park which has offices for several national and international companies including Northern Rock bank. Until recently, Vodafone had offices in the town, acquired as part of its take over of Mannesmann in 2000. The Science Park is home to the headquarters of Sophos, the anti-virus company. Research Machines, an educational computing supplier, commonly refer to themselves as being Abingdon-based, which is technically true - even though their HQ is actually in nearby Milton Park, Milton, they have an Abingdon post code. Penlon Ltd, a medical equipment company, are Abingdon-based, formerly based close to the site of the former railway station, although having recently moved to the outskirts of Abingdon, the former premises having been redeveloped as residential housing.
In 1924, carmaker MG was founded and set up its business at a factory in Abingdon. By the outbreak of the Second World War 15 years later, MG was established as one of the most favoured brands of sports car in Britain. After the war, the MG factory continued to churn out increasing volumes of popular sports car which were available at competitive prices. But the factory closed in October 1980 on the demise of the ageing but still popular MG B range, and was demolished within months.
Of a Benedictine abbey there remains a beautiful Perpendicular gateway (it was actually rebuilt out of the rubble of the original, and a little cursory examination of the patternation of the stonework will apparently divulge this) and ruins of buildings such as the mainly Early English prior's house, the guest house and other fragments. Other remains from the former abbey include the Unicorn Theatre and Long Gallery, which are still used for plays and functions including an annual craft fair.
The picturesque narrow-arched Abingdon Bridge over the Thames, near St Helen's Church, dates originally from 1416. St Helen's Church itself dates from around 1100 and is the second widest church in England, having 5 aisles and being 10 ft(3 m) wider than it is long.
The most distinguished landmark in Abingdon is probably the building which now houses the Abingdon Museum, which was formerly the county hall of Berkshire (the town was county town until1867): a building hailed as the "grandest town hall in Britain" and built by Christopher Kempster, who worked with Christopher Wren on St Paul's Cathedral. The hall stands on pillars, leaving a sheltered area beneath for a market or other municipal functions, and overlooks the main market square.
A large gaol, built by prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars in 1811 stands on the south edge of town next to the Thames. It has had various uses, most recently as a leisure centre, but is now (in 2007) empty and awaiting a planning decision.
The Roysse Room was the site of Abingdon School (then 'Roysse's School') from 1563 until it moved to its current site. The room is now part of the civic offices.