Abbotsford Trust: keeping history alive

The Abbotsford Trust was formed to preserve Sir Walter Scott’s home and ensure his story and heritage remained accessible to everyone.

A Charity Bank loan supported the estate when it reopened its doors after a monumental restoration project. Here, Chief Executive Giles Ingram shares how vital this social investment was for preserving an important cultural and historical landmark.

Abbotsford Melrose Scotland

Abbotsford Trust © Lucy Hunter

“After Sir Walter Scott’s death in 1832, five generations of his family went on to live in his beloved home on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish borders. In 2004, there were no further direct descendants able to take on the huge responsibility of running and maintaining the 120-acre estate. The Abbotsford Trust was formed in 2007 to continue Scott’s legacy. A large-scale restoration and development project took place and in 2014 the estate was officially re-opened by the Queen.

“In addition to conserving the house itself and the many artefacts, books and other objects collected by Scott, we turned one wing into luxury self-catering accommodation and built a brand-new visitor centre. This includes an exhibition space, a cafe and a retail shop. The visitor centre and general estate are open all year and free to visit, giving as many people as possible the chance to see and experience the significant historical and cultural impact that Scott had across Scotland and the world.

“After being closed for the duration of the restoration works, it was challenging to re-establish ourselves and attract visitors. As a seasonal business, cash flow could be difficult during the quieter months. To manage this, we decided to take out a loan. As a relatively new Trust with no proven track record at that time, we weren’t in a position to go to a commercial lender. We needed a social lender like Charity Bank, whose unique culture and understanding of the business model and challenges we faced was far more suited to our situation.

“Charity Bank also had a better sense of our resilience and potential, which wouldn’t necessarily be taken into account by mainstream lenders. Charity Bank had a willingness to engage in a dialogue with us and to understand our circumstances. Elsewhere, we would have surely faced a tick-box exercise that we simply wouldn’t have gotten through.

“When people invest their money with social lenders like Charity Bank, they could be helping social enterprises like ours to maintain something with outstanding cultural and historical value. Abbotsford is a unique, world famous destination. Without the support of Charity Bank and its savers, the incredible story and history of Sir Walter Scott – arguably Scotland’s greatest writer and the man who put Scotland on the world map – may quite possibly have been lost.”

Scotland Heritage

Last reviewed: 28/04/2020