News. A history of Dumfries House

14th of March, 2017

The most recent history of Dumfries House is perhaps its most definitive. Regularly occupied throughout its history, the last person to call Dumfries House home was the wife of the 5th Marquess, Lady Eileen Bute. She moved there as a young bride in 1932, but moved out during the Second World War when the House was requisitioned by the Army. (Anecdotes from this period include American GIs fishing for trout in the River Lugar using hand grenades, and the delight of local women when armistice prompted the release of large numbers of Italian prisoners of war.) Lady Eileen returned after her husband died aged 49 in 1956,. She regularly held community events at the estate and was popular with locals until her death in 1993.

On the death of her son, in the same year, Dumfries House passed into the hands of John Crichton-Stuart, the 7th Marquess of Bute (better known as former racing driver – indeed, 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans winner – Johnny Dumfries). The House fell into limbo until 2007 when at a meeting of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust at Holyroodhouse, an impromptu speech by an attendee, writer James Knox, piqued Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay’s interest. With the House and its entire contents due to be sold within weeks, he resolved a personal intervention. The Duke of Rothesay used £20million of his own charitable foundation’s money and personally brokered a £45million deal to secure the house and its collection of Chippendale furniture. The idea was to restore the House, and its contents, to their former glory. And then was to create a sustainable business, through the estate, that would help regenerate the local economy in East Ayrshire and provide a platform for heritage, sustainable living, education and entertainment. The house's original owner, The 5th Earl of Dumfries would, no doubt, approve.