Once upon a time…
JM Barrie lived in Dumfries from 1873 to 1878 and wrote Peter Pan in 1904 as a play, which went on to successfully inspire generations of young people to read and enjoy his wonderful stories. During his time in Dumfries, he often visited Moat Brae and went on to say that the gardens were ‘enchanted lands’ to him and went on to inspire the world of Peter Pan.
A dedicated group of committed local people, led by the Peter Pan Action group, got together in 2009 and committed to find a way in which to keep JM Barrie, Moat Brae and Dumfries, his childhood home town at the forefront of children’s literature – after fund raising for 10 years their vision, hard work and unstinting commitment resulted in the re-opening of Moat Brae as a literary destination for all ages in 2019.
What you will find at Moat Brae
A wonderfully designed and re-imagined house, an insight into JM Barrie and how he imagined children would read and interact with his stories, you can sit at the dining table with JM Barrie and his school friends, help catch Peter Pan’s shadow and even put on a costume and star in a play of your own. This is a place to rediscover your childhood fantasies and relive the sense of wonder from the first time you read your favourite story.
We are also honoured to be the National Centre for Children’s Literature and are dedicated to developing a love of books in young readers. We welcome school classes for day visits and programmed events and have an amazing programme of exhibitions and displays tied in with new book releases.
The Enchanted Lands garden offers adventure and inspiration to young explorers. You never know what you will find amongst the towering trees and colourful flowerbeds. Crocodiles, pirate ships, mermaids and more!
Our café offers the chance to relax, enjoy wonderful views of the garden, be tempted by our wonderful service and our tempting freshly baked cakes.
We are so proud of our work and the environment which we have created, please do support us by visiting.
History of the House
Moat Brae was designed by Dumfries architect Walter Newall in 1823 for local solicitor Robert Threshie. At one time it was known as ‘Number One Dumfries‘, such was its grandeur, and it has been a significant property in the town ever since. The property has been both a private residence and a private hospital/nursing home – in which regard it was held in great affection by the people of Dumfries and Galloway.
In architectural terms, we can still admire the balanced exterior of Moat Brae, with its five bays and its central pedimented Doric porch. Inside, and only visible once we reach the entrance hall, the main attraction is the domed gallery above, topped by a glass cupola. The original interior is more difficult to visualise, at first altered to become a nursing home and then ravaged by neglect, vandalism and the elements (including nesting birds and rot) but now restored to the look and feel of a mid-nineteenth century house.
‘The Genesis of that nefarious work…’
Moat Brae’s main claim to fame is that it inspired the creation of arguably the world’s most popular character in children’s literature – Peter Pan. The author and playwright JM Barrie derived the inspiration from his time as a pupil at Dumfries Academy and while growing up in Dumfries, from 1873 to 1878.
During this time he became great friends with Hal and Stuart Gordon, who lived at Moat Brae with their parents, and often visited the house, and especially the garden, which he later described as “enchanted land”, adding that it provided “the genesis of that nefarious work… Peter Pan.”
Barrie wrote the play ‘Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’ in 1904. It went on to inspire generations of young people to read and enjoy his wonderful stories.
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust
The house and garden were run as a private nursing home for most of the twentieth century, finally closing in 1997. After that the property changed hands several times but gradually fell into disrepair and was subsequently bought by a local housing association. In August 2009, Moat Brae House was due to be demolished to make way for new social housing.
The loss of such an iconic building and its historic garden would have been a tragedy. In response, the Peter Pan Action Group, made up of concerned Dumfries and Galloway citizens, was formed. A successful campaign was launched to save the building and garden from demolition, beating the bulldozers by just three days, following two court injunctions.
The creation, in 2009, of the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, ensured that the house and grounds were saved for posterity and for the long-term benefit of Dumfries and its wider community.
Rigorous fund-raising by friends and volunteers over 10 years, coupled with dedication and hard work (and a sprinkling of fairy dust!) plus the support of a wide range of public and private funders, successfully saved the property from demolition and decay and turned it into a magical visitor attraction which opened to the public on 1 June 2019.