Visitor centre
A golden age: Ad Gefrin

As the much anticipated Ad Gefrin museum and whisky distillery opens in Northumberland, UK, Steve Newman speaks to the


The Ad Gefrin Anglo-Saxon Museum and Whisky Distillery has opened in Wooler, UK, bringing to life the Golden Age of the seventh century Northumbrian royal court.

The £16m attraction showcases the hidden history of the Anglo-Saxon court of Northumbria discovered five miles away at Yeavering in the 1950s – widely considered to be one of the 20th century’s most remarkable archaeological finds.

With anticipated visitor numbers of 35,000 in the first year, rising to around 50,000 thereafter, Ad Gefrin celebrates and showcases the unique heritage, ancient hospitality and contemporary crafts, arts and produce of Northumberland. The site includes a bistro, bar, gift shop and the Ad Gefrin whisky distillery – home to the first Northumbrian English Single Malt Whisky.

Stills were produced by Forsyths of Speyside and drive production at the county’s first (legal) whisky distillery in 200 years.

“Since the very beginning of this project, we strongly believed that the story of Yeavering and of the ‘Golden Age of Northumbria’ was worth sharing with the world,” says Ad Gefrin director of experience, Chris Ferguson.

The experience
For an entry fee of £10, visitors get self-guided day-long access to the Great Hall with a fully immersive AV experience and unlimited museum access. The next price point – the £25 entrance ticket – includes a guided 90-minute tour of the distillery, cask store, tasting room and a whisky tasting.

On display in the museum are archaeologically-important artefacts found at the original site and borrowed from leading international museums and collections, including the British Museum.

“The museum is about far more than just giving visitors a memorable experience,” says co-founder, Eileen Ferguson, “it’s also about re-introducing them to a part of Northumberland’s history and heritage that many people in the county simply aren’t aware of. For us, Ad Gefrin has always been about community.

“There’s a deep-seated sense of hope that builds from a pride in our connection to our past and our present, nurturing a confidence in ourselves as individuals and as a community. We also made a decision that all the staff and virtually all the companies involved in the project should come from within borders of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria to boost the economy and profile of the area.”

Making it happen
The building was designed by local architect Richard Elphick to resemble an Anglo-Saxon Great Hall with the whisky stills visible to passers by through large windows overlooking the road. Builders Brimms Construction were the main contractors and local craftsman Albert Fairnington produced the dome-like atrium of the entrance hall, which is lined with more than 9,300 pine tiles. International exhibition and interpretive designers StudioMB were responsible for the Great Hall, museum, cask store and the interiors of the bistro and shop while lighting designer Michael Grubb produced lighting effects throughout the building.

Standing in front of the hearth in the recreated Great Hall, visitors are swept up in the rich stories of the time, through immersive AV technology also supplied by StudioMB. Even the walls of the tasting room change to reflect the Northumberland countryside’s seasonal appearance.

Ad Gefrin has received funding towards the construction phase from the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, the North East Rural Growth Network – Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF), North East LEP and Northumberland County Council. The project has been made possible in partnership with the Gefrin Trust.

FAST FACTS

Partners: The Gefrin Trust, the British Museum, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Ford & Etal Estates, and the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne

Architect: Richard Elphick

Exhibition designers: Studio MB

Lighting designer: Michael Grubb Studio

Anticipated dwell time: 2-3 hours

Anticipated visitor numbers: 3,500 for the first year, then 5,000 a year after that

Entry price: Great Hall & Museum: Adults £10 Children £5. This gives visitors self-guided day-long access to the Great Hall with AV experience and unlimited museum access

Great Hall, museum, distillery tour & tasting: Adults £25 Children over 8 years £12.50. This gives access to the Great Hall and a guided 90-minute tour of the distillery, cask store, tasting room and whisky tasting

Opening dates: Open every day apart from Tuesdays, 10am-6pm. Ad Gefrin is open all year round apart from the second and third weeks of January

L-R: Eileen, Alan and Chris Ferguson – the family behind the Ad Gefrin attraction Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The site includes Northumberland’s first legal whisky distillery for 200 years Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Visitors can take part in distillery tours and whisky tastings Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The lighting design was by Michael Grubb Studio Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Ad Gefrin is the brainchild of Alan and Eileen Ferguson, pictured with the team Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The £16m attraction opened in March 2023 Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
L-R: Eileen, Alan and Chris Ferguson with architect Richard Elphick Credit: Photo: Sally Ann Norman
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
2023 issue 2

View issue contents

Leisure Management - A golden age: Ad Gefrin

Visitor centre

A golden age: Ad Gefrin


As the much anticipated Ad Gefrin museum and whisky distillery opens in Northumberland, UK, Steve Newman speaks to the

The architecture is by Richard Elphick of Elphick Associates Photo: Sally Ann Norman
L-R: Eileen, Alan and Chris Ferguson – the family behind the Ad Gefrin attraction Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The site includes Northumberland’s first legal whisky distillery for 200 years Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Visitors can take part in distillery tours and whisky tastings Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The lighting design was by Michael Grubb Studio Photo: Sally Ann Norman
Ad Gefrin is the brainchild of Alan and Eileen Ferguson, pictured with the team Photo: Sally Ann Norman
The £16m attraction opened in March 2023 Photo: Sally Ann Norman
L-R: Eileen, Alan and Chris Ferguson with architect Richard Elphick Photo: Sally Ann Norman

The Ad Gefrin Anglo-Saxon Museum and Whisky Distillery has opened in Wooler, UK, bringing to life the Golden Age of the seventh century Northumbrian royal court.

The £16m attraction showcases the hidden history of the Anglo-Saxon court of Northumbria discovered five miles away at Yeavering in the 1950s – widely considered to be one of the 20th century’s most remarkable archaeological finds.

With anticipated visitor numbers of 35,000 in the first year, rising to around 50,000 thereafter, Ad Gefrin celebrates and showcases the unique heritage, ancient hospitality and contemporary crafts, arts and produce of Northumberland. The site includes a bistro, bar, gift shop and the Ad Gefrin whisky distillery – home to the first Northumbrian English Single Malt Whisky.

Stills were produced by Forsyths of Speyside and drive production at the county’s first (legal) whisky distillery in 200 years.

“Since the very beginning of this project, we strongly believed that the story of Yeavering and of the ‘Golden Age of Northumbria’ was worth sharing with the world,” says Ad Gefrin director of experience, Chris Ferguson.

The experience
For an entry fee of £10, visitors get self-guided day-long access to the Great Hall with a fully immersive AV experience and unlimited museum access. The next price point – the £25 entrance ticket – includes a guided 90-minute tour of the distillery, cask store, tasting room and a whisky tasting.

On display in the museum are archaeologically-important artefacts found at the original site and borrowed from leading international museums and collections, including the British Museum.

“The museum is about far more than just giving visitors a memorable experience,” says co-founder, Eileen Ferguson, “it’s also about re-introducing them to a part of Northumberland’s history and heritage that many people in the county simply aren’t aware of. For us, Ad Gefrin has always been about community.

“There’s a deep-seated sense of hope that builds from a pride in our connection to our past and our present, nurturing a confidence in ourselves as individuals and as a community. We also made a decision that all the staff and virtually all the companies involved in the project should come from within borders of the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria to boost the economy and profile of the area.”

Making it happen
The building was designed by local architect Richard Elphick to resemble an Anglo-Saxon Great Hall with the whisky stills visible to passers by through large windows overlooking the road. Builders Brimms Construction were the main contractors and local craftsman Albert Fairnington produced the dome-like atrium of the entrance hall, which is lined with more than 9,300 pine tiles. International exhibition and interpretive designers StudioMB were responsible for the Great Hall, museum, cask store and the interiors of the bistro and shop while lighting designer Michael Grubb produced lighting effects throughout the building.

Standing in front of the hearth in the recreated Great Hall, visitors are swept up in the rich stories of the time, through immersive AV technology also supplied by StudioMB. Even the walls of the tasting room change to reflect the Northumberland countryside’s seasonal appearance.

Ad Gefrin has received funding towards the construction phase from the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, the North East Rural Growth Network – Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF), North East LEP and Northumberland County Council. The project has been made possible in partnership with the Gefrin Trust.

FAST FACTS

Partners: The Gefrin Trust, the British Museum, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Ford & Etal Estates, and the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne

Architect: Richard Elphick

Exhibition designers: Studio MB

Lighting designer: Michael Grubb Studio

Anticipated dwell time: 2-3 hours

Anticipated visitor numbers: 3,500 for the first year, then 5,000 a year after that

Entry price: Great Hall & Museum: Adults £10 Children £5. This gives visitors self-guided day-long access to the Great Hall with AV experience and unlimited museum access

Great Hall, museum, distillery tour & tasting: Adults £25 Children over 8 years £12.50. This gives access to the Great Hall and a guided 90-minute tour of the distillery, cask store, tasting room and whisky tasting

Opening dates: Open every day apart from Tuesdays, 10am-6pm. Ad Gefrin is open all year round apart from the second and third weeks of January


Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 2

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