Magnificent £2 million visitor centre opens at Walter Scott's Abbotsford House in Melrose

By Culture24 Reporter | 22 August 2012
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A photo of a sprawling white country house on rolling green countryside
A new visitor centre awaits explorers at Abbotsford House, the former home of Walter Scott
© Paul Dodds
Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford home has opened the doors to a visitor centre which will become the centerpiece of a £14.5 million transformation at the Scottish Borders attraction.

Books of ballads, poems, myths and legends from the library of the writer of Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, as well as an egg-timer he used to set the pace of his writing, are among the star objects held in the new £4 million building, set within wandering distance of the main house.

A photo of an elegant wood-fronted outdoor visitor centre in front of grass and trees
The centre is close to the main house of the writer of Waverley and Ivanhoe© Paul Dodds
A new installation by acclaimed contemporary artist Claire Barclay, commissioned by the Abbotsford Trust, accompanies an exhibition on Scott’s life, telling tales of his books, near-financial ruin during the economic crash of 1825 – when he attempted to combat huge debts with prolific creativity – and the influences which inspired him to succeed.

“Scott’s face was recognised globally in the 19th century,” says Jason Dyer, who has led the Trust’s fundraising campaign, earning more than £12 million from supporters including the Scottish Government and the Lottery.

“He is often regarded as the world’s first celebrity superstar, but his reputation declined in the 20th century, with his literary triumphs often dismissed at home and his books rarely read.

The new Abbotsford Visitor Centre is the first step in an effort to change that and remind people that Sir Walter Scott is a towering figure in literary and cultural terms both at home and abroad.

A photo of a female curator wearing white gloves holding a sculpture of a sitting figure
Conservator Joanna Cook takes a look at a 19th century statuette of Scott
© Paul Dodds
This is an important milestone in our efforts to create an attraction that will encourage visitors from across the world to come to the Scottish Borders and learn about this important man.”

The Trust still needs to raise £2.5 million to preserve the listed building in Melrose, built on riverside land bought by Scott more than 100 years ago. Members of his family lived there as recently as 2004.

Design books and accounts for the construction of the House, in 1824, are among objects going on display for the first time, alongside visitor books signed by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde and other high-profile guests.

The main house is expected to reopen in 2013.

More pictures:

A photo of a large wood-fronted visitor centre in front of trees and grass outdoors
A shop and a dining space, named Ochiltree's after a character in Scott's novel The Antiquary, feature in the visitor centre
© Paul Dodds
A photo of the inside of a museum showing artefacts and writing to do with literature
Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771, and became the world's best-selling author
© Paul Dodds
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