Artist impression of the new faith galleries at Auckland Castle. Credit Casson Mann

Auckland Castle awarded £9m for museum extension

Rebecca Atkinson, 28.05.2015
HLF grant gives green light to renovation project
Auckland Castle in County Durham has received a £9m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to restore the building and create a new museum that will explore the history of faith.

The castle won planning permission from Durham County Council in April for a £17m restoration that aims to turn the 800-year-old building into a heritage centre welcoming 120,000 visitors a year and generating £3m in annual revenue.

The HLF grant takes its total investment in the project to £10m, having previously awarded initial support of £1m in 2013 to develop the proposals. The Auckland Castle Trust has pledged £7m towards the cost of the project.

“The HLF decision comes on the back of two years of hard work by a great many people,” said David Ronn, the chief executive of Auckland Castle Trust. “To say that we are absolutely delighted is an understatement, and the size of this award proves that the North East is taken seriously by the HLF.”

The renovation will create up to 130 jobs, and it is hoped that the heritage centre will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the town of Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area.

Conservation specialist Purcell will carry out some of the restoration work while Niall McLaughlin Architects will extend and remodel the 16th-century Scotland Wing, which will house the museum. This will open in 2018 and will feature 11 galleries exploring the history of faith in Britain.

Exhibition designer Casson Mann will oversee the exhibition and interpretation plan for the castle. Objects on display will include a Viking lead font that is a fusion of Pagan and Christian beliefs; four stained-glass panels that were among the last to be made before the Reformation; and two bronze age swords.

Thirteen works by Francisco de Zurbarán will also remain on display at Auckland Castle. The trust was set up in 2012 specifically to purchase the paintings from the Church Commissioners, which manages investments on behalf of the Church of England. They have hung at Auckland Castle since 1756.

In March, the council granted planning permission for Auckland Castle Trust to construct a £2.5m welcome building on derelict land in the grounds, which is also being designed by Niall McLaughlin Architects and should be completed by May 2016.

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