In an 11th hour move — and to the surprise of many — Dumfries House and its Rococco furniture by Thomas Chippendale has been acquired for the nation by the Art Fund, with contributions from The Prince’s Charities Foundation, the Scottish government, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Monument Trust, the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and SAVE Britain’s Heritage..
The house was put up for sale through Savills in April and advertised in Country Life. The asking price for the core estate was £4 million. At the same time, a campaign to secure the estate was launched by SAVE Britain’s Heritage. In May, The Art Fund approached SAVE to offer its support and pledged to underwrite the acquisition of the house and contents up to a total of £2 million. This was increased to £2.25 million — the largest pledge in The Art Fund’s history. In addition to this, the Prince of Wales has borrowed £20m, and the NHMF riased a donation of £7m towards the effort.
Today, the owner, John Bute, says: ‘I am delighted to say that following the closing date, I have decided to sell Dumfries House and its contents to the nation. Dumfries House has been a private family residence since its creation in the 18th century by my ancestor, the 5th Earl of Dumfries, and it is my hope that it will go on to be enjoyed long into the future by a wider public.’
Many different organisations have come together to make the purchase possiblee, but it was the Prince of Wales who was largely responsible for galvanising the heritage funding bodies and generating separate finance. John Bute adds: ‘In my opinion, the rescue package would have failed without his intervention.’
Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of NHMF, said:
‘At the eleventh hour a determined partnership of public and private contributors has found a way to save Dumfries House and its unique Collection of furniture to be enjoyed by the public for the first time in its history. Thirty years after the disastrous sale of Mentmore and its contents, this is exactly what the National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up to do and we are delighted to have been able to respond quickly with a grant of £7m to help purchase this beautiful and important heritage treasure for the nation.’
Jeremy Musson Country Life’s architectural editor said this is an extremely important day: ‘The acquisition on behalf of the nation of Dumfries House complete with its contents and its estate is a national triumph of the first order. The Art Fund, the NHMF, SAVE and others, with the crucial leadership and support of HRH Prince of Wales has produced the best possible outcome that only yesterday seemed out of reach. Country Life had argued strongly that the dispersal of the Chippendale furnishings supplied for this house would have been a national tragedy so we welcome this news with jubilation.’
The Marquess of Bute’s Dumfries House at Cumnock in Ayrshire