Prince Charles recalls ‘horrors’ of saving Dumfries House

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PRINCE Charles has spoken of his “labour of love” in restoring one of Scotland’s most prized country houses to its former glory.

The heir to throne headed the consortium that bought over Dumfries House in East Ayrshire nine years ago, shortly before the property and its historic contents were due to be sold off.

Speaking in detail for the first time about the buyout, Charles has described the frantic pace of the negotiations, which were concluded as the Cumnock estate’s furniture – including rare Chippendale pieces – was in transit to an auction house.

He also revealed that although he had not visited the house itself, he resolved to take action amid concerns its estate could have been turned into a golf course.

In an interview with Great Estates, a BBC Alba series that began last night, he said: “I’d never actually seen it but I’d seen old photographs. I knew it was important enough because somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea for a golf courses and things and they’d never have worked. It would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses.”

Around 10 per cent of Chippendale furniture pieces left in the world are in the Palladian country house, which was built in the 1750s by the fifth Earl of Dumfries, William Crichton-Dalrymple.

After an outcry from preservationists, Charles said he and he consortium were aghast at the prospect of the house becoming a “completely empty shell”.

He said: “By the time the negotiations and all the horrors of putting the money together and God knows what was finally concluded, there were three huge pantechnicons already with the furniture all with labels on all going down to London.

“They literally were stopped on the motorway at one-o’clock in the morning, and turned round to come back.”

He added: “I don’t think it went down too well with all these people around the world. I get told by lots of people ‘I wanted to buy this, that and the other’.”

The Palladian country house is now owned in charitable trust by the Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, which maintains it as a heritage attraction.

The first episode in the four-part series will be repeated on BBC Alba on Sunday at 11pm.

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