Refashioned Auckland castle will be a ‘must-see destination’

17 April 2015

NEW developments for the former residence of the Bishops of Durham at Auckland Castle have been given the go-ahead.

The £17-million project, part of a £60-million scheme to turn the historic building and its grounds into a world-class visitor attraction, will involve constructing a tower entrance outside the castle walls; the addition of a two-storey extension to the 16th-century Scotland Wing; and the refurbishment of the state rooms, banqueting hall, and chapel.

The castle was bought from the Church Commissioners in 2012 by the financier and philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer, after he stepped in to stop the planned sale of the castle's paintings of Jacob and his 12 sons by Francisco de Zurbarán, an artist of the Spanish Golden Age. They were originally purchased by Bishop Trevor in 1756 (Feature, 12 July 2013).

The chief executive of Auckland Castle, David Ronn, said that the castle "represented in 2012 the start of our journey, and became the foundation and the inspiration for all that has followed in our ambition to create a world-class, heritage-led regeneration protect." It is expected to be finished in 2018.

The design for the expanded Scotland Wing is based on wooden Anglo-Saxon churches of the sixth and seventh centuries, and will house "Faith", a display across 11 galleries which explores humanity's relationship with belief.

The castle's curatorial and exhibition director, Dr Chris Ferguson, described it as "a permanent and dynamic multi-media installation of both national and international significance, presenting works of art and artefacts covering pre-history to the present".

The £2.5-million timber-framed entrance tower, will include an observation platform almost 50 feet high, with panoramic views over the town, castle, and parkland. The refurbished state rooms will tell the stories of the bishops from medieval times to the present.

The Auckland Castle Trust says that the site will ultimately become a "must-see destination of genuinely international status and significance", creating more than 100 full-time jobs and 20 full-time training posts. The Trust forecasts 120,000 visitors annually, injecting £3 million into the local economy.

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