Funding agreed for first whisky distillery in Northumberland for 200 years that will create 50 jobs

The funding package is falling into place for a major development in a north Northumberland village, which will create 50 jobs.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 11:27 am

Last summer, multimillion-pound plans for a whisky distillery and visitor centre on a prime site in Wooler were unveiled.

The Ad Gefrin Distillery – named after the Anglo-Saxon palace at nearby Yeavering Bell – will bring back into use the run-down and vacant Redpaths Yard site and is the brainchild of the Ferguson family, who have run businesses in Northumberland across four generations for more than 100 years.

And on Tuesday, December 10, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet agreed to award a grant of £600,000 for the scheme, which will be the county’s first whisky distillery in 200 years ‘alongside a high-quality cultural centre, showcasing Northumbrian heritage and promoting diverse local products and produce’.

An impression of how the proposed new whisky distillery and visitor centre in Wooler will look.
An impression of how the proposed new whisky distillery and visitor centre in Wooler will look.

The overall cost is £10.4million, with £5.8million secured through a bank loan and further grants lined up of £3million from the Borderlands deal, which is subject to a business case, and £1million from the North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN).

The report to councillors explains that the project must start on site by spring 2020 in order to secure the full funding package, as the NERGN programme is coming to an end and all grants must be spent by March 2021.

Starting on site in the spring would not only enable the NERGN funding, for which an expression of interest received indicative approval, to be spent by March 2021, but also for the attraction to open that June; opening early in the peak visitor season ‘is critical to the success of Ad Gefrin’.

The aim is that it will attract 49,000 visitors a year by 2024, generating £5million of annual visitor spend.

Chris and Eileen Fergson at the proposed site of the Ad Gefrin distillery and visitor centre in Wooler.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “The visitor centre is attracting a lot of public funding, because it’s a really exciting showcase for the medieval history of our county. You sometimes forget how deep our history is.”

Coun Glen Sanderson added: “It’s a hugely exciting project for Wooler and the wider area as well, like the Ingram Valley and the North Cheviots.”

Coun Richard Dodd told the meeting that he had visited the Lakes Distillery over in Cumbria earlier this year and that it attracted visitors from all over the world.

Coun Richard Wearmouth said: “Fifty full-time-equivalent posts is an amazing thing for Wooler. It’s part of the Northumberland economy which does struggle on occasion.

“It will bring not just new jobs but new life and I can’t wait to see it happen.”