The Autumn 2022 opening of world-class cultural visitor experience Ad Gefrin will champion Northumberland’s Anglo Saxon ‘Golden Age’, alongside the county’s first whisky distillery.

A celebration and showcase of the unique heritage, ancient hospitality and contemporary crafts, arts and produce of Northumberland, Ad Gefrin is both a fully-immersive Anglo Saxon Golden Age of Northumbria visitor experience and the county’s first (legal) whisky distillery in 200 years.

The unveiling of Ad Gefrin comes amidst a unique focus on Anglo Saxon culture in the North East. 2022 marks the return of The Lindisfarne Gospels to the region, in an important exhibition opening at Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery in September. These Gospels are the most spectacular surviving manuscripts from Anglo-Saxon England, penned at the end of the period illuminated by Ad Gefrin. Together they offer an amazing glimpse into the Golden Age of Northumbria.

Launch of Ad Gefrin puts North Northumberland on the Map
Architect impression of Ad Gefrin Visitor Experience Distillery

The Ad Gefrin cultural visitor experience:

Ad Gefrin brings to life the hidden history of the 7th Century Anglo Saxon Royal court of Northumbria, discovered at Yeavering only four miles away: one of the 20th century’s most remarkable archaeological finds.

This was the royal summer palace of the Northumbrian Kings and Queens: a story largely untold. Kings were celebrated for their generosity; women could own property and were equal in the eyes of the law, diversity was embraced and there was the expectation that new friends and visitors would give, not take away. The Great Hall of the Royal Court was a destination for international trade and cultural exchange with connections to people from across Europe and as far as north Africa.

This is the atmosphere that Ad Gefrin will recreate through its Visitor Experience. Standing in front of the hearth in the recreated Great Hall, visitors will be swept up in the rich stories of the time, through cutting-edge immersive AV technology that will bring this period of history to life through spoken word, art, music and dance. A series of projected films will illuminate the lives of the many people that lived and worked in the royal court. Displayed alongside will be a number of archaeologically-important artefacts both found at the original site, and borrowed from leading international museums and collections.

The Great Hall is the stepping-off point for Ad Gefrin’s wider offering: a bistro bar, gift shop and of course the distillery.

Launch of Ad Gefrin puts North Northumberland on the Map
Ad Gefrin – Acle Re-enactment working on embroidery for Ad Gefrin Experience c. Sally Ann Norman

The Ad Gefrin distillery:

Ad Gefrin re-awakens the Northumbrian tradition for whisky distilling: it is England’s most northerly distillery producing the first Northumbrian English Single Malt Whisky. The destination is a highly-anticipated addition to the UK’s whisky industry, attracting international appeal to the area from high-spending overseas visitors through a programme of tailored tours and tastings.

The inaugural Single Malt Whisky will be Ad Gefrin’s hero spirit. Mastered for sharing, the ambition is that this single malt will be celebrated for its distinctiveness and depth of flavour, and palatable to both the curious and the connoisseur. Alongside this will be a small handful of other carefully-curated Ad Gefrin spirits (both Blends and gin), each full of character, all different but from the same heartland.

Just as the lives of the ancient Northumbrian court were shaped by the landscape – so too is the whisky of today.  The provenance couldn’t be better, with pure Cheviot water coming up from beneath the site, barley in the fields within sight, and one of the country’s most revered Malting houses – Simpsons Malt – only a few miles away.  As the founders of the project, the Fergusons are proud to state: “if you were going to put a distillery anywhere in England, this is the best place to be.”

The Ad Gefrin story:

Ad Gefrin is the brainchild of the local Ferguson family who have been living and working in Northumberland for four generations. On a site owned by Eileen Ferguson’s family that was for many years a derelict eyesore at the gateway to Wooler, there will stand a state-of-the-art building, marrying the epitome of the latest technological efficiencies and sustainable design practices, with echoes of the aesthetic of the great halls of Northumbrian kings who lived here centuries ago.

First and foremost, Ad Gefrin is a genuine cross-generational regeneration effort; a catalyst for positive change that aims to revitalise the local community and put Wooler – a rural market town at the base of the Cheviot Hills – on the map. This multi-million pound investment – one of the largest investment projects ever seen in North Northumberland – is born out of a desire to create a visitor destination that is meaningful, enduring, brings people together and creates jobs. While the ambition is global, the legacy is, without doubt, loyally local with financial support coming from a partnership of national and local public sector organisations including the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, Northumberland County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Launching a global product from a small rural destination, Ad Gefrin offers a unique take on a culture-led local initiative. The two separate, but entirely symbiotic, sides to Ad Gefrin – the distillery and the cultural visitor attraction – together form a fully-integrated business model that is entirely original, fully sustainable and will serve the local economy for years to come.

Commenting on the launch of Ad Gefrin, Eileen Ferguson, Co-Founder in the enterprise with her husband, Alan, says:

“Ad Gefrin is a destination like no other, and we cannot wait to welcome visitors from both near and far. This project is very close to my heart and something that the whole Ferguson family feels passionate about. Our collective ambition is to put something wonderful back into an area that has given us so much.

In embracing all that the Golden Age stood for in terms of connectedness, cultural exchange and innovation, we hope that Ad Gefrin brings people together and instils a sense of belonging and hope. We are so looking forward to sharing this with the world when our doors open next year.”

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