The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust
To restore the ‘enchanted land’ of Moat Brae House and garden as permanent assets for Dumfries and the wider community, to honour the garden as the inspiration for J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and celebrate the quality and importance of their cultural heritage and architecture as an international visitor attraction.
Background to Project
In 1997 Moat Brae House, an exceptionally fine Category B Listed Georgian house, ceased to be a Nursing Home and was sold to a private developer. Eleven years later in April 2008, the house was for sale again and this time was bought by Loreburn Housing Association, a social housing group. Over the years, little attention had been paid to the condition and fabric of the building and it is now in a very poor state. In May 2009 the local press reported that Moat Brae House might soon be demolished.
Moat Brae was designed in 1823 by the architect Walter Newall, for Robert Threshie of Barnbarroch. The interior of the house has a particular charm and theatricality about it, arranged as it is around a circular gallery and top-lit dome over the central saloon. Newall was born in New Abbey, and spent most of his working life in Dumfries.
However, the garden of this Georgian house is equally important. It, too, must be secured for the nation, for it was this garden that proved to be the inspiration for J M Barrie’s world-famous character Peter Pan. Barrie was a pupil at the nearby Dumfries Academy and made friends with the Gordon family who lived in Moat Brae House and where the schoolboys played regularly in the garden in the 1870’s.
Without wishing to pre-empt the findings of an Options Appraisal, potential Future Uses of the building are numerous. It is vital that the restored house and garden offer a variety of different opportunities to the visitor, all under the one roof. The literary associations with JM Barrie and Peter Pan must be to the fore. Uses might include:
- Outreach centres for the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Museum of Childhood;
- Archive Centre as a home for the Walter Newall Archive;
- an ‘Adventure’ Garden;
- Café, restaurant and shop selling ‘branded’ merchandise;
- small-scale conference and lecture suite;
- 2-3 bedroom holiday flat with full disabled facilities for Great Ormond Street Hospital respite patients;
- office accommodation to let.
There are many international links to be made with those countries who host Peter Pan statues, namely Belgium, U.S.A., Canada and Australia.
There are various future anniversaries to celebrate including the 150th Anniversary of Barrie’s birth in 2010, the 75th Anniversary of Barrie’s death in 2012 and the 150th Anniversary of Walter Newall’s death in 2013. March 2010 also sees Peter Pan Week.
In response to the suggestion and threat of demolition, the previously formed Peter Pan Action Group made up of concerned and dedicated local people with a wide range of backgrounds, interests and expertise, are now in the process of setting up the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust - a Building Preservation Trust and a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.
Immediate and urgent action must be taken as the building is in very poor condition and is deteriorating rapidly. The Trust is currently working closely with Loreburn Housing Association and Dumfries and Galloway Council to ensure a positive outcome for Moat Brae. It is determined to save and protect the house and the garden to ensure its future for the public benefit of the townsfolk of Dumfries, and sees it as playing a vital part in the town’s regeneration scheme. Loreburn Housing Association has intimated to the Trust that it would consider selling the property to them, but have asked that an Action Plan be presented to them by the end of August with a proposal to lease or buy the house with payment being deferred for two years.
An Options Appraisal must be undertaken as soon as possible and it is essential to determine what immediate remedial repairs need to be made to protect and secure the building over the coming winter months.
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust will have two initial Subscribers: Roger Windsor, formerly chairman of the Peter Pan Action Group, and Luke Moloney, a conservation architect based in Dumfries. The constitution will allow for up to 12 Trustees. The Company Secretary will be the legal firm of Primrose and Gordon whose offices at 92 Irish Street, Dumfries DG1 2PF will serve as the registered address for the Trust. The Trust’s Auditors and Accountants will be the firm of Carson and Trotter, 123 Irish Street, Dumfries DG1 2PF. Banking facilities will be provided by the Clydesdale Bank, 84 High Street, Dumfries DG1 It has been agreed that every cheque drawn shall be signed by two out of four signatories. The year end will be 31st August.
Initial offers of help, support and advice have already been forthcoming from a variety of individuals and groups, including: Architectural Heritage Fund, Prince’s Regeneration Trust, Historic Scotland, Association of Building Preservation Trusts, SAVE, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Crichton University, the Garden History Society of Scotland, Galloway Preservation Society, the Architectural Heritage Society Scotland and the Friends of the National Galleries of Scotland.