A derelict Georgian townhouse and garden said to have inspired JM Barrie write Peter Pan has been saved for the nation, backers of a long-term rescue bid have announced.
A campaign spearheaded by actress Joanna Lumley to secure the future of Moat Brae House in Dumfries has announced that £5.3 million is in place to turn it into a centre for children’s literature and storytelling.
The trust behind the initiative has also announced that the new attraction, expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors a year, is due to open in 2018. That is three years later than planned when details a proposed overhaul were first unveiled in 2011, when the project had a £3.5m price tag.
The B-listed building, which was designed by Dumfriesshire architect Walter Newall and dates back to 1823, has been made wind and watertight, and had a new roof installed since being taken over by the trust.
The restoration project, which will get under way within the next few months,will see the creation of permanent and temporary exhibitions, a children’s library, education workshops, a cafe and a shop.
Barrie, who was born in 1860 in Kirriemuir, Angus, spent his teenage years in Dumfries and played in the garden of the house with friends Stuart and Hal Gordon, who lived there.
The overhaul will include the creation of a “Neverland Discovery Garden”, named after the location featured in Barrie’s famous stories, which will have a Peter Pan theme and an area for live performances.
The house and garden were in private ownership between 1823 and 1914, before being turned into a nursing home, which shut in 1997, after which the property fell into disrepair.
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, which was initially set up to halt the planned demolition of the building, has gone on to secure the backing of Creative Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Lumley said: “This is tremendous news for Dumfries and a lovely gift to young people everywhere. Moat Brae inspired JM Barrie to write one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time and we hope it will give new generations of young people the courage and confidence they need to lead creative lives.”
Cathy Agnew, project development director, said: “I think JM Barrie would love to know that the town, the house and the garden which so inspired him will now inspire hundreds of thousands of others.”