Work has officially started on the construction of a new visitor reception building at Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home – the first step in the multi-million pound regeneration of the historic property.
On Thursday, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, patron of the Abbotsford Trust, cut the first sod on the site of the new centre.
It is part of a project to transform Abbotsford into a world-class visitor attraction which the trust hopes will protect Scott’s legacy for future generations and bring economic benefit to the region.
The Duke was joined by representatives from some of the organisations and individuals who have made the project possible, as well as some of Scott’s descendants who are also members of the trust.
More than £10million has been raised to date as part of the campaign to save Abbotsford, with major funders including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise, as well as a number of private individuals and charitable trusts.
Border Construction has been appointed to build the visitor centre, managing the project from its Earlston office. The building, which will contain an interpretation area showcasing Scott’s importance on the world stage, a shop and restaurant, is set to open next spring.
The main house will close at the end of this year’s summer visitor season on September 16 to allow extensive repairs to the fabric of the building, the development of a new visitor accommodation wing, new education facilities and improved visitor access. It will re-open in 2013.
Fundraising for the project remains ongoing, with an additional £4million required to create an endowment that will guarantee Abbotsford’s future.
In addition to the sod-cutting event, the Duke helped children from Tweedbank Primary School replant a sapling from the construction site to a new position in the grounds.
During the ceremony, the Duke said; “When The Abbotsford Trust took over this historic house in 2007, it was in need of substantial restoration and repair, and declining visitor numbers meant that there were insufficient funds to repair and maintain it for the future.
“Thanks to the work of the trust and the support and generosity of numerous organisations, individuals and, not least, the Borders public, I am delighted that today we are able to start the work that will create a visitor experience worthy of one of the most influential Scots who ever lived.
“Scott’s work brought Scotland to the attention of the world and through this regeneration, we aim to create a legacy that will be enjoyed for years to come by visitors from across the globe and that will also bring lasting economic benefit to the Borders region.”
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in Scotland, told us: “Once its transformation is complete, Abbotsford will join Scotland’s portfolio of world-class attractions showcasing its fascinating collections in a modern and dynamic way. The legacy of Scott will soon be a source of education and delight for visitors from home and abroad while making a significant contribution to Scotland’s culture, society and economy.”
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker commented: “This is a tremendous day for Abbotsford and the Borders. We are all thrilled the trustees are now able to start works to deliver their vision for Abbotsford.
“Over the next three years it will become an even greater Borders asset than it is at present. There is no doubt Scott’s legacy will be taken to new levels by the investment in this project.”
For more information, visit www.scottsabbotsford.co.uk