Saturday, 28 January 2023

Dumfries House: Preserving Scotland's Heritage

Dumfries House was finally purchased as a whole after Charles, Prince of Wales (later Charles III) heard about the campaign from the writer and campaign member James Knox, who made "an impassioned impromptu speech" at one of the Prince's bi-annual conservation conferences at Holyrood House in Edinburgh. On 27 June 2007, it was announced that a consortium headed by the Prince, and including various heritage charities and the Scottish Government (who contributed £5m), had raised £45 million to purchase the house and contents (along with its roughly 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) estate) and endow a trust for maintaining it.


The trust was set up with the name "The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust", a reference to the title Great Steward of Scotland then held by Charles in his role as Scottish heir apparent. A major element of the financial package was a £20m loan backed by The Prince's Charities Foundation. It was reported that the contents of the house had already been removed, and were being transported to London when the sale was agreed.


The trust's intended model is to have the estate become a self-sufficient enterprise, in the process revitalising the local economy. The project was to be achieved through donation and sponsorship of various renovation projects around the estate, as well as through revenues from the construction of an 'eco-village' in the grounds, a planned community called Knockroon.


In 2008, the advent of the global financial crisis had a major impact on the project, affecting the prospects for the Knockroon development and thus the recouping of the £20m loan. The Prince faced much media criticism for putting the Foundation's other projects at risk for what was seen as a vanity project, prompting a response in 2010 describing the risk as "manageable and fully covered."After switching to a model of private and corporate fund raising, the £20m loan was repaid by 2012, with a further £15m backing having been raised for the various renovation projects and ongoing maintenance bill for the estate.


Following restoration, Dumfries House itself opened to the public for guided tours on 6 June 2008. From mid-2009, supermarket chain Morrisons began funding the restoration of the meat and dairy farm attached to the estate, both to become a research and education tool into sustainable farming methods, but also with the intention of its becoming profitable by 2014, part of the chain's vertically integrated supply chain. Renovation of the former coach house and associated stable block began in winter 2010. It reopened in 2011 as a catering facility, as both a visitor cafe and bistro dining facility. The first phase of the Knockroon village opened in May 2011.


In October 2011, work was started on clearing the area that used to be the Walled Garden, which had fallen into disuse and become overgrown. In April 2012, the six-bedroomed guest house Dumfries House Lodge opened, to provide guest accommodation for wedding parties and other events. It was created by renovating a derelict farm building on the estate. The estate's former water-powered sawmill has been renovated to full working order, and with the addition of a larger workshop building, has re-opened as the Sawmill Building Skills Centre, a traditional skills education facility.


King Charles, while Prince of Wales and known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay, continued to support Dumfries House. In September 2012, with Camilla, then the Duchess of Rothesay and known as the Duchess of Cornwall, and Alex Salmond, then the First Minister of Scotland, Charles attended Ladies' Day at Ayr Racecourse in aid of the Trust.


In 2017, the Prince of Wales celebrated 10 years of Dumfries house; he was quoted in Dumfries House Magazine  as saying, "We now have over 150 employees and thousands of individuals using the estate. My hope, therefore, is that this publication can help to involve a wider audience of supporters by providing an insight to all that happens on this estate and to its even more important outreach work."


In May 2018, "The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust" was renamed "The Prince's Foundation".


In October 2022, the King featured in a special edition of the BBC TV programme The Repair Shop filmed at Dumfries House, sharing objects from the collection in need of restoration.

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