Friday, 21 August 2009

Peter Pan and the Lost House? The sad tale of Moat Brae

1915 cover of this much loved classic

Moat Brae House, Dumfries : "Our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden which was an enchanted land to me was certainly the genesis of this work." JM Barrie

Please help save Category B listed Moat Brae House, Dumfries from developers and demolition!

Update Oct 1st - great news! See end of blog!

Welcome to the new website and blog for Moat Brae House, an exceptionally fine Georgian townhouse in Dumfries, Scotland.
Moat Brae was designed in 1823 by the architect Walter Newall, for Robert Threshie of Barnbarroch. The interior of the house has a particular charm and theatricality about it, arranged as it is around a circular gallery and top-lit dome over the central saloon. Newall was born in New Abbey, and spent most of his working life in Dumfries. The range and quality of his work is becoming more widely appreciated since the archive of his records was acquired by Dumfries & Galloway Council and is now in the care of the Dumfries Archive Centre.
Many will know of the house because of its connection with the story of Peter Pan. In 1873, on his first day as a pupil at Dumfries Academy, the author JM Barrie befriended the Gordon boys, sons of a local solicitor whose family were then living at Moat Brae. Stuart Gordon shared Barrie’s appetite for high adventure, and invited him to join his pirate crew… “…when the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians shed their triangles, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries Garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.” (JM Barrie, Speech on being awarded the Freedom of Dumfries, 11 December 1924) The garden of Moat Brae house is the birthplace of Peter Pan.
Over recent years, the house and garden have, sadly, been allowed to fall into a very bad state of neglect. The house is currently owned by Loreburn Housing Association, who recently announced that the house is “a goner”, and suggested its demolition, followed by a redevelopment of the site...

A little past history:

a more recent history, and pictures:

and the latest in the saga:

Trust bids for Moat Brae

Aug 19 2009 by Craig Robertson, Dumfries Standard Wednesday

A £50,000 offer has been put on the table for Moat Brae House by the group wanting to take control of the building.
It’s understood that was the result of week-long negotiations between the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust and Loreburn Housing Association which owns the property.
A public meeting is to be held on Friday, at 5pm in Dumfries Academy’s Minerva Hall to discuss the trust’s plan for the site where Peter Pan author JM Barrie was inspired to create his famous character.
In the meantime, the offer is to be discussed by Loreburn’s board of management.
The bid is significantly less than the figure the housing firm paid for the building last year – believed to have been more than the £140,000 asking price.
The trust submitted its offer on Friday in the wake of a court hearing when a sheriff decided an order preventing Loreburn from knocking down the building should be lifted.
However, housing bosses gave an assurance that they would not go ahead with any demolition without the consent of the local authority.
It was their plans for demolition, which emerged just over a week ago, that sparked major controversy in Dumfries and prompted the trust to obtain the interim interdict from the court to stop the demolition process beginning.
Loreburn was set to begin the demolition process last week without the consent of the council which had threatened legal action.
But yesterday, Loreburn’s chief executive, Ahsan Khan, insisted that was not the case and that their plans to turn the site into a Peter Pan visitor centre and a sheltered housing complex “remained on track”.
He said: “I would like to stress that Loreburn clearly never had any intention to move forward without the confirmation of our partners in the local authority that we were acting with their support and in the interests of public safety.
“Following our announcement last week our colleagues in the council then confirmed they were content to monitor the building’s ongoing deterioration over the next few weeks.
“By the end of August we will have a clearer picture of the future for the site.”
Loreburn had said two of their engineers looked at Moat Brae and deemed it in imminent danger of collapse.
But Dumfries art gallery owner, Roger Windsor – one of the key players behind the trust – dismissed that view.
He told the Standard: “Their engineer was not a conservation engineer."
“The guy that we have from Appleby is perhaps the leading conservation engineer in Great Britain and is quite convinced that the structure is sound. That (the imminent collapse) was not going to happen. There are bits inside that may fall down.”
He added: “We are now in a position to raise money as a trust and we have made an offer for the building with a guarantee to the bank for the loan.”

Why then, if the demolition was only a remote possibility, was the demolition contractor hired, notices on site, and the owners splashing in the press that they were about to illegally demolish?

Letters sent urgently from Historic Scotland and the council told Loreburn quite clearly that demolition without consent would be a criminal act. If Charles Blackett-Ord says the house is safe that's good enough for me.

The upshot of all this is that there is to be a meeting this evening:

Public MeetingDate – Friday 21st August
Time – 5:00pm
Place – The Minerva Hall, Dumfries Academy (by poster kind permission of the Rector)

Dame Barbara Kelly will be in the Chair

Welcome by Dame Barbara Kelly
The Story so Far - Roger S. Windsor MBE
The Building - James Simpson OBE. FRIAS.
The Way Forward - Mrs Cathy Agnew

General Discussion


All is not yet saved, and if anyone can make it then the more support and letters and e-mails of support the better, and please write to Loreburn and ask that the house be saved and preferably sold to the new trust.

I will update with more news as soon as possible.



I attended the meeting, report on the Moatbrae website, which today was updated with good news!

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