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Auctioneers Christie’s and estate agents FDP Savills contacted the NTS to explore the possibility of a private treaty sale after they were invited by owner Johnny Bute to advise on the sale of his Ayrshire home and its chattels. If no agreement is reached FDP Savills have been instructed to bring the Dumfries estate to the market in September while Christie’s envisage offering the collection next summer in what would be an unprecedented sale.

The primary concern of the NTS, who are presently conducting an internal acquisition appraisal, is that house and contents remain together. The William Adam-designed property includes spectacular array of furnishings provided by leading London and Edinburgh cabinet-makers within a ten-year period between 1756 and 1766. They include the largest group of fully-documented Chippendale furniture remaining in private hands.

According to chief executive Robin Pellow, the Trust are not in a position to undertake the acquisition on their own but are hoping to develop a consortium of Scotland’s cultural and heritage organisations willing to participate in a collective effort to keep the estate intact. “The Trust is ready and willing… but with the scale and size of such a task, we would have to look towards the Scottish Executive for a lead,” he said.