Urgent repairs costing £500,000 are needed at Ellisland Farm, the former home of Robert Burns, near Dumfries.
The major funding challenge for the trustees charged with caring for the historic property – also comes with revelations that the poet had a much bigger involvement in developing the site than previously thought.
The full findings of a £12,000 conservation study funded by Historic Environment Scotland last year are being unveiled at an online seminar tomorrow night.
William Napier of Adams Napier Partnership and Dr Gerry McKeever of Stirling University will give their findings and conclude that Ellisland – where Burns wrote Auld Lang Syme and Tam O’Shanter among many works – should be categorised as being of “exceptional” historical and cultural interest, with its setting protected.
It was previously thought that the poet designed just the farmhouse for his wife, Jean Armour. But the study has revealed that a barn, byre and stable were, in fact, erected for him by local masons working to his instruction.
Ellisland business manager, Joan McAlpine, said: “This is an incredible piece of historical detective work which underlines Ellisland’s national and international importance.
“As well as being the most authentic site, it’s the best place to fall in love with Burns and see nature through his eyes. It needs to be better known and better supported.”
“The Secrets of Ellisland” seminar will tell viewers that these buildings are at risk without the costly conservation repairs the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust must now fundraise for.
Ms McAlpine said: “The repairs the report identifies will cost about 25 times our annual income so pose quite a challenge.
“We have already received an award of £10k from the Architectural Heritage Fund/William Grant Foundation for emergency work, but as well as repairing the buildings, we need to repurpose and improve them, to generate the revenue needed to operate as a museum and visitor centre.”
She hopes the public will help by making a donation online, by becoming a member of the charity for £15 via the Ellisland website, or by visiting the historic site when it reopens to the public in April.
The study shows that Burns was a “modernising farmer” at the cutting edge of the 18th century agricultural revolution.
The woodland around the site was planted as part of Burns’s tenancy and the enclosed fields he created are identical to those cultivated.
Dr McKeever said: “Two newly rediscovered maps of Ellisland farm dating from 1787 and 1817 provide major evidence of Burns’ work as an ‘improving’ tenant farmer.
And according to Dr Napier it is the “least changed” and “most authentic” of all the poet’s homes. He said: “We think now we can be confident that Ellisland Farm is probably the most authentic site associated with Burns’ lifetime and I think that that makes it a really important place.”