The co-founder of a new £16 million whisky distillery and Anglo-Saxon museum has said she was “privileged” to be able to give something back to her community.
Ad Gefrin will be the latest of England’s 40 whisky distilleries and will bring tourists to Wooler, Northumberland, to see the spirit-making process, enjoy tours and tastings, and to learn about the area’s deep history.
The attraction takes its name from an ancient Anglo-Saxon royal power base which was rediscovered in the middle of the last century, a few miles away in the hamlet of Yeavering.
The British Museum has loaned Ad Gefrin treasures from the time when the nearby fort would attract important visitors from across Europe, and even North Africa, 1,300 years ago.
Eileen and husband Alan Ferguson have invested millions in the project, backed by tourism development funding, which will revitalise Wooler, creating more than 50 full-time jobs for local people.
Mrs Ferguson, whose father and grandfather ran a successful haulage business from the site, said: “I have deep family roots here, so I feel privileged to have been able to put something significant and lasting back into the community that has given us so much.
“We want to create a long-term legacy and I hope Ad Gefrin will add a new reason for people to be proud of their town and optimistic for the future.”
It took five years of planning and building, including delays caused by the pandemic, to transform the former haulage yard into a visitor attraction.
Local people, including staff members who will be called “folc”, have firmly got behind the project which has seen one of the largest investments in the area.
Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “I want to pay tribute to the Ferguson family and the team at Ad Gefrin for their vision, passion, and incredible hard work to create a first-class visitor destination and distillery which will boost and regenerate this rural economy.
“Ad Gefrin has highlighted the rich history of the area and will offer a unique, year-round visitor experience with huge financial spin-offs for local shops, restaurants, services and employment.”
The whisky will use locally malted barley, which is claimed to be some of the world’s best, with blended whisky available before a single malt is ready, some time after 2026.
The distillery will produce Northumberland’s first legal whisky for 200 years.
The attraction goes on show to local people this week before opening to the wider public from the weekend.