The Art Fund have thrown their weight behind the campaign to save Dumfries House for the nation with a £2m pledge towards acquiring the house and its contents. Christie’s, who are due to sell the contents at a showpiece sale next month, say such good intentions have arrived too late.
The £2m marks the largest pledge in the art charity’s history and brings the total so far to £7m, thanks to an additional £1m pledge from The Garfield Weston Foundation and a £4m pledge from The Monument Sainsbury Family Trust.
Dumfries, the first major work of the Adam brothers (built between 1754 and 1759), is furnished almost throughout by Chippendale, and contains many pieces by important Scottish contemporaries William Matthie, Alexander Peter and Francis Brodie.
The conservation group SAVE Britain’s Heritage are heading the campaign and have prepared an imaginative plan for vesting the house in an independent charitable trust that will open it to the public and utilise the estate in various ways to benefit the local community.
It is thought that opening the house to the public could pave the way for social, environmental and economic regeneration of the area around the local town of Cumnock, which has traditionally relied on a now declining coal industry, and be a focus for the economic development of Ayrshire in general. However, the money raised is still far short of the sort of money that could stop the forthcoming sale.
John Bute, the 7th Marquess of Bute, has put the house on the market and SAVE estimates its value in excess of £6.75m, with the value of the contents thought to be at least £12m-15m. In all they believe at least £25m is needed to keep the house and contents together before July 12-13 when the interior furnishings are due to go under the hammer at Christie’s in London.
Christie’s released a statement saying, “There has always been a desire to find a private sale solution for Dumfries House. John Bute’s intentions regarding the sale have been public for over three years giving relevant heritage bodies notice and opportunity to consider and propose an offer. John Bute has been proactive and put considerable effort into working towards a heritage solution during this time.”
By Stephanie Harris
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