An artist's impression of the approach to the House of Dun
An artist's impression of the approach to the House of Dun

Trust makes a declaration on property’s heritage

Conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland has announced its plans to invest over £700,000 at one of its properties.

The investment at the House of Dun, near Montrose, will completely re-purpose the property, which encompasses the Montrose Basin Nature Reserve, as a historical park for Angus which tells the story of the county, the people and their landscape.

It will also feature a special installation which explains Angus’s part in the ‘birth’ of Scotland as we know it through the Declaration of Arbroath almost exactly 700 years ago.

The House of Dun is an A-listed Georgian mansion designed by William Adam and completed in 1743 for the Erskine family. Its collections and interior décor include coded features which express the family’s Jacobite sympathies. Bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1980 along with extensive grounds, it has been open to the public since 1989.

The estate includes Dun’s Dish, Montrose Basin, Old Dun Kirk. Erskine Mausoleum and a stretch of the South Esk river.

The focal point will be redevelopment of stables and courtyard area to house multi-sensory interpretation and costumed story-telling.

An artist’s impression of the approach to the House of Dun

It will also provide a permanent home for the collection of the Angus Folk Museum, assembled by Lady Maitland of Burnside, which includes objects depicting over 300 years of history about the people and their relationship with the land. The collection was previously housed in Glamis but had to be removed to safe storage in 2014 due to the deterioration of the building it was displayed in.

The new displays and installations include:

  • A celebration of the horse and its importance in agriculture and war;
  • Angus’s agriculture heritage – the people and the land;
  • Lady Maitland’s room of curiosities;
  • Food and drink;
  • The story of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320;
  • A 360 degree ‘Larder Theatre’ for performances;
  • Child’s Play – the toys of our forebears;
  • An archive room, which will bring to life stories from county’s long heritage – such as the inventors of the stamp and radar, the first balloonist and Dennis the Menace;
  • New catering and retail facilities for visitors.

The National Trust for Scotland’s chief executive, Simon Skinner said: ‘This is a transformational investment that will offer a rich experience for people of all ages.

‘The combination, of house, landscape and artefacts allows us to show how Angus, its people and the land shaped modern Scotland, providing fascinating snapshots of life as it was for our forebears.

An artist’s impression of an interactive display at the House of Dun

‘Our aim is to not just to make history relevant but to have it come to life for visitors, from the archaeological evidence of pre-history right through to recent times. It combines both a natural setting and a human landscape that will be inspirational.’

Iain Hawkins, the National Trust for Scotland general manager north east said: ‘This will be an immersive experience showing how “our ain folk” lived and contributed to Scotland’s rich tapestry.

‘I know that there has been recent concern expressed about the lack of celebration of the upcoming 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath – in a sense, this was a gift from Angus to secure the future of a nation that was still facing an existential threat.

‘We will be including a special, permanent display to mark the importance of this document in Scotland’s story. It was, in effect, a “contract” between the people and the rulers of the nation, which went on to influence modern thoughts on governance, including the USA’s Declaration of Independence.

‘Our approach to story-telling about house and county will be to use the perspectives of three real characters from history. Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine will represent the aristocrats of the 1860s; Isabella Peddie, the house cook, will offer views and gossip from “downstairs”; and William Young, the overseer, talks about the running of the estate.

‘This combination of real people and real stories, along with a spectacularly beautiful landscape, will be irresistible to visitors.’

Work begins early in the New Year and is expected to be completed at the start of August 2020.