With construction well underway, new dates have now been announced for the launch of The Auckland Project’s purpose-built welcome centre, Auckland Tower, and the re-opening of 900 year-old Auckland Castle.
Auckland Tower, which will serve as the welcome centre for the wider Auckland Project visitor destination will open later this year, on Saturday, 20th October.
Before that, there will be two chances to take a sneak peek inside the unique site, with an Auckland Tower Town Update event on Saturday, 21st July and a special community event on Saturday, 29th September.
It was previously expected that the Tower would be complete in time for July’s event, however the complexity of the structure and impact of the weather has meant work will now be ongoing into the autumn.
As The Auckland Project’s Property Director, Chris Blacklock explains: “The unique design of Auckland Tower has brought with it some unusual challenges, making it very difficult to predict the exact timescale of the building programme.
“That, coupled with the harsh weather we had earlier in the year, including high winds and snow, has meant we will not be fully complete for 21st July as originally hoped.
“We are however keen to ensure the public have a chance to venture inside the building as soon as it is safe to do so, and, in partnership with VEST Construction, are committed to opening the doors on 21st July and 29th September to offer a sneak preview, ahead of the official launch in October.”
Work on Auckland Tower, supported by Headley Trust, began in February 2017, following the appointment of Bishop Auckland building and engineering firm, VEST Construction, as the main contractor.
Visitors will have their first opportunity to venture into the Tower with the Town Update event for local residents running from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, 21st July.
A special community event at Auckland Tower will also be available on a drop in basis to coincide with Bishop Auckland Town Council’s Produce and Horticultural Show and Bishop Auckland Town Team’s Celebrating Together event on Saturday, 29th September.
The official launch of Auckland Tower will take place on Saturday, 20th October, with a day of activities still to be announced.
Auckland Castle, once a private palace for the Prince Bishops of Durham, will re-open to the public in spring 2019, following a multi-million pound conservation programme to recapture its former Georgian Gothic grandeur.
It had originally been hoped that this extensive work would be complete in time for Christmas, however the complexities of working with an ancient structure and the ongoing discovery of hidden historic features has led to a small adjustment in the timescales.
The Auckland Project’s CEO, David Maddan, explains: “Since work began in September 2016, Auckland Castle has continued to throw up a number of fascinating surprises,” he said, “starting with the discovery that the Scotland Wing had no foundations, which meant we needed to underpin the entire structure before any of the planned work could commence.
“In the months that followed our contractor, Meldrum Construction Services Ltd, has continued to uncover hidden historical features, from coats of arms and fireplaces dating back to the 15th century, to hidden staircases and former windows.
“As a result of such discoveries our work programme has had to be repeatedly adapted to ensure these intriguing and unpredictable finds could be documented and protected wherever possible.
“It is this ongoing succession of relatively small but necessary changes that has ultimately combined to create a shift in the overall timescales, which will now see Auckland Castle open to the public in spring 2019.”