New visitor centre and whisky distillery taking shape in Northumberland
Construction work on a new £10.5million visitor centre and whisky distillery in Wooler is making good progress.
The steel framework for Ad Gefrin is now in place on the prime site fronting the A697 and the concrete flooring was poured into place on Monday.
It is scheduled to open in autumn 2022, although it will be some three years later when the first Northumbrian single malt whisky is ready to be sold.
Eileen Ferguson, whose family is spearheading the scheme, said: “For me this is like living the dream and I get very emotional about it.
"This site has been in our family for 90 years and it’s just incredible to see it being restored to something of great value.
"We’re planning to open in autumn 2022 so there’s a lot of work still to catch up on but after that we’re hoping to attract around 50,000 visitors per annum.
"The other thing we want to do is help to regenerate the high street. We want people to come to Wooler and stay for the day so people in this town benefit from our investment.”
It is hoped the distillery and visitor centre will eventually create up to 50 full-time new jobs.
Alan Ferguson said: “That will roll on into the town and create at least as many again so 100 jobs in Wooler is very important.
"It’s also giving people hope for the future because this will be sustainable.
"The visitor centre will be an attraction which will be something that hasn’t been seen in the North East of England. It’s going to be exceptional.
"The whisky distillery is going to support that and it should still be here in 100 years’ time, long after we’re just a distant memory.”
The aim is to showcase Northumberland’s unique Anglo-Saxon heritage and celebrate its ancient hospitality alongside the very best arts, crafts and produce the county offers today, as well as re-awakening a 200-year-old local tradition for whisky distilling.
Chris Ferguson said: “We want to create something in Northumberland that’s never really been seen before.
"It will be an immersive experience – both physical and digital - that brings together the story of Yeavering, the place and the people.
"Instead of turning it into a history lesson with dates and timelines, we want to take people into the story of how they lived.
"Yeavering was a centre of the Kingdom of Northumbria at a time when the court moved around every few months. The Great Hall was discovered by Brian Hope-Taylor in the 1950s and the remains of the palace complex have been found. We will be bringing colour and life to it.”
The work by North East contractors Brims Construction has extra significance as it became the first project in the Borderlands Programme for Northumberland to break ground.
Ad Gefrin has received £3m from the Borderlands Growth Deal which is funded through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and has also received £1m from the North East Rural Growth Network – Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF) through the North East LEP, and £600,000 through Northumberland County Council.
The remainder of the funding is from private backers.