£5.3m Raised to Restore Birth Place of Peter Pan, Moat Brae House

J M Barrie’s original Neverland will help give young local people a great start in life and regenerate Dumfries with investment, jobs and visitors
A total of £5.3 million of capital funding has been secured to transform the derelict Georgian house and gardens where Peter Pan began into a national centre for storytelling and children’s literature.
The finance, which includes £1.78m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £680,000 from Creative Scotland and £500,000 from Dumfries and Galloway Council, means the historic Moat Brae House has finally been saved and will soon bring a whole range of benefits to Dumfries and its people.
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT) will create a visitor attraction which is expected to welcome 40,000 visitors a year from all round the world contributing a much-needed additional £1.3 million for the local economy.
Children from across the region, and far beyond, will have a wonderful place to visit and play, and enjoy a year-round programme of creative events and activities.
The centre will open in 2018 and will be a place to discover children’s literature and storytelling across many eras, countries and cultures. The grounds will be reinvented as a Neverland Discovery Garden.
Joanna Lumley, PPMBT Patron, said: “This is tremendous news for Dumfries and a lovely gift to young people everywhere.
“Moat Brae inspired J M 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. It’s an awfully big adventure, and this is just the start.”
Dame Barbara Kelly, PPMBT Chairman, said: “Moat Brae is a very special place and it’s wonderful that it has been saved and has a new future as a major visitor attraction and a community asset at the heart of Dumfries.
“The transformation of the house and gardens will make an invaluable contribution to the town’s social and economic regeneration. It will also provide brand new opportunities for children and families for fun and discovery.
“We’d like to thank all those who have believed in us and helped us reach this stage, either by making donations or giving their time and energy as volunteers.”

J M Barrie played at Moat Brae when he was a pupil at the nearby Dumfries Academy in the 1870s and later described his time in Dumfries as ‘the happiest days of his life’ and the garden as “enchanted land to me – the genesis of that nefarious work – Peter Pan”.
PPMBT, which was formed in 2009 to stop the house from being demolished, will carry out a full restoration and create:
• Exhibitions telling the story of Moat Brae and its links with J M Barrie
• A specialist education and learning suite
• Rooms where visitors can develop their creative potential through interactive activities
• A café and shop.
The Neverland Discovery Garden will have Peter Pan and Neverland-themed interactive features including:
• A pirate ship
• Wendy house
• Mermaid’s Lagoon
• Performance space
• Indian camp … and much more.
Cathy Agnew, PPMBT Project Development Director, said: “After more than six years of developing plans for the house and gardens it’s great to be able to announce that the capital funding we need to proceed is now in place.
“I think J M 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. As one of the world’s successful playwrights, he really understood the importance of igniting young people’s creative imagination and so do we.
“We have very exciting plans to work in partnership with many national organisations to hold lots of high quality events and activities which will let children and young people play, learn and enjoy themselves in this fantastic house and gardens.”
The project will also celebrate Moat Brae’s architect Walter Newall, promote a better understanding of Georgian Dumfries, tell the story of the Gordon family who befriended J M Barrie and recreate the Darling’s nursery.
Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, said: “We’re delighted to be a partner in this wonderful project and to have contributed towards an outstanding effort to secure such massive investment in Dumfries town centre. Everyone involved in the project should be congratulated. The development of the National Centre for Storytelling meets so many of our council’s priorities. It will create jobs directly and indirectly, so helping build the local economy, which is our number one priority.
“Children from Dumfries and Galloway, and beyond, will have a wonderful place to learn and play, attracting visitors to our region. The £5m of investment in saving and transforming this historic Georgian house and gardens is also exactly what we mean when we talk about town centre regeneration. I’m looking forward to seeing the next phase of work beginning and the eventual opening in 2018 so that future generations can enjoy a very special addition to the many great attractions Dumfries and Galloway has to offer.”
Moat Brae is expected to (directly) create more than a dozen new jobs while another 19 FTE jobs could be created indirectly as a result of the extra spending by visitors.
Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Moat Brae and its gardens have an important place in the history of Dumfries and we are delighted that with the help of National Lottery players it has been saved. We look forward to seeing this much-loved house transform into a visitor attraction that will boost the town’s tourist economy and inspire children today and tomorrow, as it once inspired JM Barrie.”
Philip Deverell, Director, Strategy at Creative Scotland, said: “It is great to see that the fundraising for this exceptional project is progressing so well. We are confident that even more people will get behind this exciting new centre for children’s literature that celebrates the unique association with JM Barrie and the birth of Peter Pan.”
Further fundraising will now take place so the Trust can develop a series of exciting features and projects at Moat Brae.

Photo credit Colin Hattersley

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