Fit for a queen as monarch sees results of £12M Abbotsford rescue

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The day so many have worked so long and hard for finally arrived yesterday when The Queen reopened Abbotsford.

The home of one of Scotland’s greatest writers, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford will now re-open to the public following its £12 million refurbishment.

The Queen signs the visitors book in the Chinese Drawing Room at Abbotsford House.

The Queen signs the visitors book in the Chinese Drawing Room at Abbotsford House.

The Queen was welcomed by staff and trustees of The Abbotsford Trust, the charitable organisation that runs the property, as well as around 500 guests, including 50 descendants of Scott from the UK and overseas.

Among them was 86-year-old Toronto resident, Aurea Williams, who is believed to be the famous writer’s oldest living descendant.

On arrival, the Queen was met by Lord Lieutenant Captain The Hon Gerald Maitland-Carew and introduced to VIP guests, including local MP Michael Moore, Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker and Christine Grahame MSP, as well as Lord Sanderson, chairman of the Abbotsford trustees.

Her Majesty was also presented with a posy of flowers by three-year-old Elsie Fotheringham, the daughter of Abbotsford learning assistant, Reinanke Fotheringham.

Jason Dyer (Chief Executive of The Abbostsford Trust) escorts The Queen around.

Jason Dyer (Chief Executive of The Abbostsford Trust) escorts The Queen around.

The monarch enjoyed a 20-minute tour of the house and its collections of antiquities, before sitting down in Abbotsford’s grand dining room for lunch, catered by local firm, Gill Orde Catering.

She then made the short walk to the new modern visitor centre, where she met other trustees and descendants of Scott, before signing the visitors’ book and unveiling a plaque commemorating the occasion.

After meeting The Queen in Abbotsford’s library along with other Scott relatives, Mrs Williams told The Southern she had informed the monarch she was Canadian.

“She was very nice,” Mrs Williams said. Her son, Mike, added that it was a tremendous occasion for the family: “It is a very big day – 23 from Canada alone.

The Queen meets with decendants of Sir Walter Scott.

The Queen meets with decendants of Sir Walter Scott.

“Abbotsford and Sir Walter Scott has always been an important part of our heritage.

“My mother, uncles and grandparents often talked about it and when I was 11 I came here to visit Aunt Jean and Aunt Patricia (the last two descendants to live at Abbotsford), who were living here. So it’s been a big part of our lives.

“And they’ve done a great job with the work, because it could have gone many ways. It’s turned out very well.”

While meeting the group from abroad, a small child had cried out and the Queen stopped and went over to speak to the little girl, who presented her with a sketch, much to the monarch’s delight.

The Queen meets the head gardener in The Chinese Drawing Room at Abbotsford House.

The Queen meets the head gardener in The Chinese Drawing Room at Abbotsford House.

The reopening of Abbotsford follows the five-year campaign to save the historic property and its important collections following the death of Dame Jean Maxwell Scott in 2004, the last of Scott’s descendants to live in the house.

In the historic rooms that will be on show to the public, more than 4,500 objects within Scott’s collections have been returned to the house after months of cataloguing, cleaning and, in some cases, repair.

Trust chairman Lord Sanderson says The Queen’s visit was a proud and exciting day for all those involved: “We have been able to create a world-class attraction that will be a jewel in the crown of Scotland’s tourist industry and attract visitors from across the globe. We are honoured that Her Majesty The Queen is visiting today to help us celebrate the legacy of one of Scotland’s most important sons.”

Scottish Borders Council leader, David Parker, said the reopening of Abbotsford, along with the new visitor centre, was a tremendous boost for the region.

“The Abbotsford trustees have created a world-class tourist and heritage facility and I am overjoyed that the hard work and commitment of the trustees, and all of those who have worked so hard on this project, has come to fruition in such a fantastic way,” he said.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron got in on the excitment, In a letter to Lord Sanderson, he praised those involved in the project.

The Queen unviels a plaque in the visitors centre

The Queen unviels a plaque in the visitors centre

“I can only imagine the number of dedicated people involved with a project on this scale, but everyone - no matter what their role – should be justifiably proud of what has been achieved,” wrote Mr Cameron.

“I have no doubt Abbotsford will continue to welcome and inspire future generations of great British writers and poets among its many visitors.”

The Queen has visited Abbotsford on a number of occasions and the great house has played host to several Royal visitors including, in 1867, Queen Victoria who regarded Scott as her favourite poet.