Art Fund Hails Success Of Campaign To Save Dumfries House

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 27 June 2007
a photograph of a country house set in extensive grounds

Dumfries House in East Ayrshire. © Christie’s Images Ltd 2007

The successful last ditch negotiations to save a remarkably preserved Georgian mansion in East Ayrshire have been hailed as a remarkable success by the Art Fund.

Dumfries House, its land and contents are now secured for public enjoyment thanks to a campaign launched by SAVE Britain’s Heritage in March 2007 and supported by the Art Fund and the Prince of Wales.

In May the Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, approached SAVE to offer its support by underwriting the acquisition of the house and its contents up to a total of £2m.

This has since been increased to £2.25m – the largest pledge in The Art Fund’s history. The Art Fund also attracted major pledges from The Monument Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Sir Siegmund Warburg Voluntary Settlement.

“This has been possibly the most extraordinary campaign in The Art Fund’s long history and I am thrilled Dumfries House and its magnificent furniture and contents are now secured for public enjoyment,” said The Art Fund’s Chairman, David Verey.

a photograph of an ornate interior with a dining table and chairs set in the middle

The house boasts one of the greatest collections of Chippendale furniture in the world © Christie’s Images Ltd 2007

Since May 2007 The Art Fund has been working behind the scenes to put together a funding package to secure the estimated £45m needed to secure the house – acting as the formal body through which the irreplaceable collection can be acquired on behalf of the nation.

“People said it couldn’t be done – that there wasn’t nearly enough time or it was too much money to raise,” added The Art Fund Director David Barrie. “But this campaign shows what can be achieved when funding bodies really work together actively to achieve a common goal.”

Those that have pledged funds also include the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Scottish Executive and HRH The Prince of Wales who is said to have ‘responded generously’ to the challenge of saving the house for future generations.

Situated in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, about 50 minutes from Glasgow and 20 from Prestwick Airport, Dumfries House is one of the most important Georgian houses in the UK.

a photograph of a white tiled interior with a low table in the centre of the room and a fireplace on the left hand wall

Most of the interior is exactly as it was when it was first built. © Christie’s Images Ltd 2007

An almost unique time capsule from the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, it contains an outstanding collection of untouched 18th century furniture selected specifically for the house at the time it was built, including pieces by Thomas Chippendale and his Scottish contemporaries William Matthie, Alexander Peter and Francis Brodie.

The house had been put on the market by John Bute, the 7th Marquis of Bute; its historic furniture contents were due to be sold separately at an auction held by Christies on July 12 and 13.

The Art Fund’s status as a ‘Schedule 3 Body’ allowed them to step in and organise a Private Treaty Sale at the eleventh hour.

The total sum of £45m covers the purchase of the house, the land and its contents as well as the creation of a new trust to run the house as a public attraction.

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