House where Peter Pan began gets £5.7million transformation

Published: 28 Apr 2017

Moat Brae House work begins

Work starts on National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling at house and garden that inspired JM Barrie

Work has started to transform the house where Peter Pan began into a new national centre for children’s literature and storytelling.

Contractors Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, have just taken possession of the Moat Brae site in Dumfries, after winning the £5 million contract to revive the house and garden where the young J M Barrie was inspired to create Peter Pan, his friends and their pirate foes.

The centre will be a valuable national cultural resource which will delight and inspire children and adults alike.- Janet Archer, Chief Executive Officer

Joanna Lumley, Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT) Patron, said: “Sometimes dreams really can come true. It’s marvellous that work has now begun to turn this beautiful house and garden, that had gone to rack and ruin, into a national centre for literature and storytelling that will welcome children from around the world.

“I think JM Barrie would be overjoyed that the place which inspired his dreams of Peter Pan will soon be firing the imaginations of today’s children.”

The centre will open in the autumn of 2018 and will be a place to discover children’s literature and storytelling from many eras, countries and cultures. The grounds will be reinvented as a Neverland Discovery Garden.

Moat Brae House work begins - children dressed up
Peter Pan (Louise) Tinkerbell (Caitlin) and Pink Fairy (Emilia) welcome the builders - photo credit Colin Hattersley

Dame Barbara Kelly, PPMBT Chair, said: “It’s all systems go as the restoration begins and the house and garden are transformed. Moat Brae will soon become an inspirational year-round local, national and international visitor attraction and resource for all ages to enjoy.

“The project’s contribution to the economic regeneration of Dumfries is of tremendous importance and cannot be under-estimated. It will directly create at least a dozen new jobs and will provide many other opportunities for people in the area.”

Janet Archer, Chief Executive Officer at Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is delighted to be supporting the creation of the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling at Moat Brae House. The centre will be a valuable national cultural resource which will delight and inspire children and adults alike. We wish the trust well with the build and look forward to its completion in 2018.”

Cathy Agnew, PPMBT Project Director, added: “Moat Brae House will be at the heart of many children’s lives – a place to discover and enjoy wonderful stories from every part of the world.

“The start of work is a very special moment, when a vision starts to become a reality. We are grateful to all those who have supported us. And it’s especially delightful that Tinker Bell, Peter and Nana were there to welcome Balfour Beatty to Neverland.”

Once complete Moat Brae will feature a learning and education suite, café, shop and magical interpretation to inspire visitors, to stimulate children’s imagination and reveal the many stories the house has to tell.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said: “The new National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling will make a significant contribution to the cultural and tourism sector in Dumfries and across Scotland. Moat Brae’s link to the timeless and much-loved children’s classic, Peter Pan, will help to attract visitors from all over Scotland, the UK and overseas, and further cement Scotland’s reputation as a great storytelling nation and I have been a keen supporter since the start when Historic Scotland provided initial funding to stabilise the building.

“The Scottish Government is committed to widening access to culture and the arts for everyone in Scotland, protecting and preserving our rich heritage for future generations to enjoy and promoting the south of Scotland as a visitor destination, and I welcome the funding provided for this project through Creative Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland.”

The restoration contract was awarded after an extensive competitive tendering process.

Stephen Scott, Regional Managing Director, Balfour Beatty said: “We are delighted to be a part of this extremely unusual and historic project, to create the new home for children’s literature and storytelling.

“We will utilise our extensive knowledge of complex restoration projects and specialised conservation techniques, to ensure that we deliver a building that will inspire future generations for years to come.”

The project, which will cost £5.7 million overall, has support from The National Lottery, Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Ronnie Nicholson, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “This is a major step forward for an exciting project that promises to bring real benefits to the town centre and to the wider region.  As well as creating jobs, the regeneration of Moat Brae will encourage locals and those from out with the region to come and visit Dumfries and Galloway, which is why the Council invested in the project.

“Arts and culture can play an important role in promoting social and economic goals through local regeneration, attracting tourists, the development of talent and innovation, as well as improving health and wellbeing.”

Notes for Editors

Even though the building work is now underway there is still much work to be done in delivering a first-class project and there will be naming and sponsorship opportunities to raise funds for specific features in both the house and garden.


  • The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust (PPMBT) is creating a visitor attraction, at Moat Brae House in Dumfries, which is expected to host 45,000 visits a year contributing £1.3 million to the local economy.
  • Children from across the region, and far beyond, will have a wonderful place to visit and play, and enjoy a year-round programme of creative events and activities.
  • The centre will open in 2018 and will be a place to discover children’s literature and storytelling across many eras, countries and cultures. The grounds will be reinvented as a Neverland Discovery Garden.
  • J M Barrie played at Moat Brae when he was a pupil at the nearby Dumfries Academy in the 1870s and later described his time in Dumfries as ‘the happiest days of his life’ and the garden as “enchanted land to me - the genesis of that nefarious work – Peter Pan”.

PPMBT will create:

  • Exhibitions telling the story of Moat Brae and its links with J M Barrie
  • A specialist education and learning suite
  • Rooms where visitors can develop their creative potential through interactive activities
  • A café and shop.

The Neverland Discovery Garden will have Peter Pan and Neverland-themed interactive features including:

  • A pirate ship
  • Wendy house
  • Mermaid’s Lagoon
  • Performance space
  • Indian camp … and much more.

Moat Brae is expected to (directly) create more than a dozen new jobs while another 19 FTE jobs could be created indirectly as a result of the extra spending by visitors.

Major contributors to the project include Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland, Historic Scotland, the Robertson Trust, the Wm. Grant Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, the Binks Trust and many other private trusts and individuals.

About J M Barrie and the trust

Author and playwright J M Barrie lived in Dumfries from the age of 13 to 17, and played in the garden at Moat Brae.  His first work of fiction was a “log book” recording the games of pirates and adventure that he played there under the name of “Sixteen String Jack”. He attended the nearby Dumfries Academy and enjoyed his first experiences in staged productions at Dumfries Theatre Royal.

J M Barrie returned to the town and on being awarded the Freedom of Dumfries, he described his childhood there as “the happiest days” of his life.

The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust was set up in 2009 to save Moat Brae House and garden from demolition and to celebrate its international literary connection as ‘The Birthplace of Peter Pan’. For more information log onto the Trust website and follow on Facebook and Twitter @ppmbt.

This project has been adopted for support by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

About Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty is a leading international infrastructure group. With 30,000 employees, we provide innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins our daily lives, supports communities and enables economic growth. We finance, develop, build and maintain complex infrastructure such as transportation, power and utility systems, social and commercial buildings.

Our main geographies are the UK, US and the Far East. Over the last 100 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world, including the London Olympics’ Aquatic Centre, Hong Kong’s first Zero Carbon building, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the US and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.