Whisky distillery and visitor centre plan is lodged

Chris and Eileen Ferguson at the site of the proposed distillery and visitor centre in Wooler.
Chris and Eileen Ferguson at the site of the proposed distillery and visitor centre in Wooler.

Much anticipated plans for Wooler’s Ad Gefrin distillery and visitor centre have been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

The multi-million pound development is being planned on the dilapidated former Redpath’s Yard on South Road.

An impression of how the Ad Gefrin distillery will look.

An impression of how the Ad Gefrin distillery will look.

The Ferguson family behind the project hopes the distillery – named after the Anglo-Saxon palace at nearby Yeavering Bell – will create up to 50 jobs and reinvigorate the wider local economy.

Eileen Ferguson said: “This is a prime site entering Wooler with great potential and we have worked really hard to develop something that we think will work as a year-round visitor attraction that will get the town buzzing again.”

Her son, Chris, added: “We are confident that this can work. There are a lot of things in our favour.

“Whisky production is growing, we’ve got the provenance, the barley is grown here, we have Simpsons Malt in Berwick on our doorstep, the water is really good and there’s the peat from the Cheviots.

Architect Richard Elphick.

Architect Richard Elphick.

“All the ingredients that makes for a high quality whisky in Scotland are here in this part of Northumberland.”

If planning permission is secured, it is hoped to start construction work in the spring and that the distillery and visitor centre will open its doors by 2020.

As time is needed to lay down a malt whisky, the full release of the Ad Gefrin Single Malt is not expected until 2028.

Award-winning local architect, Richard Elphick, is responsible for the designs, which draw heavily on the heritage of Glendale, on the history behind Ad Gefrin and on whisky production.

The intention behind the building is to provide a place which fits well into the townscape of Wooler and welcomes the traveller to the town.

At the same time, it will serve the important task of bringing employment to the Glendale district, as well as income from whisky production, tourism amd collaborative projects.

The main core of Ad Gefrin was two large halls set in a straight line, each 26metres long, and the design for the distillery and visitor centre reflect these large historic structures.

They too will be 26metres long and of similar proportions, with angular pitched roofs set side by side.

The proportion and shape of the buildings with their sloping pitched roofs will project the traditional appearance of old large agricultural barns, complete with narrow arrow slit vents in the walls.

The bright whitewashed walls of the buildings reflect the limewashed walls of traditional distilleries and will contrast with the huge east facing glass window, which will showcase and display the two copper stills to the main road.

Brinkburn-based Richard, who has been involved in major restorations at Wallington Hall and Cragside, said: “I believe the building will sit comfortably, with good manners, in the Wooler townscape, reinforcing a sense of place. The overall effect of all the buildings is intended to be rather like a planned ‘model farm’ which produces spirits.”

The search for a suitable design, and architect, has been a two-year project, incorporating extensive travel across Canada, North America and Scotland, and the rest of the UK. Richard was chosen as the architect whose ideas best embodies the family’s vision

Eileen said: “We are really thrilled with the plans which Richard has produced as they combine the Anglo-Saxon Hall of Ad Gefrin, and the wider historical landscape of Northumberland and Northumberland’s National Park.

“From the outset, our aim was to have a multi-faceted building which would bring the history and heritage of where we love to live, and one which would attract a range of markets to provide year- round business.

“Richard has delivered this, and the Ad Gefrin Distillery will help in putting Wooler on the map, serving as a gateway to the town and a stopping off point for travellers.”