Major steps are underway towards the multi-million pound regeneration of one of Britain’s most important ancient sites.
Four schemes totalling more than £24m will breathe new life into the centuries-old Auckland Castle and the historic market town in which it stands.
The plans will be lodged with Durham County Council before Christmas.
If approved, the projects will see the Palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham undergo the most far reaching and visionary changes for 300 years.
They will also promote the economic revival of the once-prosperous town of Bishop Auckland.
The plans include:
- The £17m restoration of the castle, which has received initial support* from theHeritage Lottery Fund (HLF), including the construction of a new museum wing telling the story of all religious faiths in Britain
- The creation of a £2.5m visitor welcome centre incorporating a visually stunning 27m tower
- The £3m transformation of a former bank in Bishop Auckland Market Square designed by the local Victorian architect George Hoskins, into a new and internationally important Spanish art gallery
- A £1.5m development to turn an adjacent derelict building into a study facility for post graduate students of the arts
Together, the proposals total £24.25m and will create new jobs and investment into the area.
Subject to planning approval, work will begin in 2015.
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The first portrait of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has gone on display at Auckland Castle in County Durham. It was painted by the artist Roger Wagner.
It continues a tradition, dating back to the 15th century, of paintings of previous Bishops of Durham being hung at the Castle. It will go on display in the throne room.
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Artefacts from what's thought to be the English Civil war have been unearthed at Auckland Castle. Archaeologists from Durham University have been excavating the site which will be open to the public at the end of the month.
The Auckland Castle Trust hopes to uncover 900 years of history.
After 10 days of digging in Bishop Auckland, remains of a building have been laid bare in a trench on an area close to the castle's Scotland Wing.
Auckland Castle's head curator, Dr Chris Ferguson, says the volume of debris is a 'puzzle and could suggest a very dramatic end' to what looks to be a substantial structure.
A bed that dates back to the 15th century is going on display in the North East. It's the only bed surviving from the Tudor period and was designed to celebrate the wedding of Henry the 7th and Elizabeth of York - a marriage which brought peace and launched the Tudor dynasty.
It'll be shown to the public at Auckland Castle in County Durham.
Dr Christopher Ferguson, Head Curator at Auckland Castle, said:
"Richard Foxe, former Bishop of Durham in the late fifteenth century, was a key supporter of Henry Tudor's claim to the throne of England. Foxe met Henry whilst exiled in France, and fought with him at Bosworth Field. He was his key diplomatic advisor and set up the marriage of Henry's daughter, Margaret, to King James IV of Scotland. It therefore seems fitting that Auckland is the first venue for this bed to be displayed to the public.
"Auckland Castle is already home to many important works of religious and secular art, such as the seventeenth century paintings of Francisco de Zurbarán. We're delighted to be able to showcase this historic treasure, the only remaining piece of early Tudor state furniture, here in North East England."
The royal bed of Henry VII [1485-1509] is set to go on public display at Auckland Castle in County Durham from Wednesday.
The Paradise State Bed, which is 527 years old, was used by Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York and is the only Tudor royal bed in existence.
The exhibition is to mark Henry Tudor's accession to the throne of England.
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