Work Progresses at Historic County Durham Castle

Glen Watson, Project Manager at Meldrum Construction Services Ltd, handing the key to Auckland Castle to Clare Baron, Head of Exhibitions and Interpretation at The Auckland Project. Photo credit; The Bigger Picture Agency Ltd

Work to bring one of County Durham’s historic castles back to life has taken a significant step forward.

North east company, Meldrum Construction Services Ltd, led by heritage and conservation experts Purcell, has completed its phase of work on the conservation of Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland.

The 900-year-old building, the former home of the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham, is being carefully restored to its former splendour as part of The Auckland Project visitor destination.

Gateshead-based Meldrum has experience with Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, before beginning work on Auckland Castle they worked on St Nicholas Cathedral and The Bruce Building for Walton Robinson, both situated in Newcastle City Centre.

The company worked throughout the Castle conserving windows and historic plasterwork as well as putting in new plaster in all of the rooms and installing new power outlets heating, electrical infrastructure and lighting, including environmental control systems designed to help protect the historic building.

Meldrum also created new learning, retail and visitor facilities within the Castle, including conserving and transforming the original medieval kitchen into a new café.

The work has been managed by heritage building project management specialists, Focus Consultants, global professional services consultancy, Turner & Townsend, conservation architects, Purcell, and Clerk of Works consultancy, Hickton.

Other north east companies that have supported the conservation work include, Durhambased TGA Consulting Engineers, RDA, catering, hospitality and retail consultancy, design and fit out company, from Hebburn and Thornton Firkin quantity surveyors from Newcastle.

Now the construction element of the work is coming to a close, Auckland Castle has been handed back to its owner, The Auckland Project, a charitable organisation using art, faith and heritage to fuel long-term change and regeneration in the local area. The Project’s own specialist team of curators and conservators will now move in to prepare the Castle’s interior for its re-opening later in the year.

The Castle’s impressive state rooms are now being painstakingly returned to their original Georgian Gothic splendour as designed by renowned English architect, James Wyatt complete with new furnishings and textiles.

New interpretation will also be installed, inviting visitors to step back in time to hear the stories of the Prince Bishops of Durham and their life at Auckland Castle over the centuries.

Helen Redman, Head of Projects at The Auckland Project, said: “We have worked together with Meldrum Construction Services Ltd. to ensure that Auckland Castle is brought back to life, and returned to its former glory.

“We are now looking forward to the next steps towards creating an exciting new visitor experience in County Durham.”

Jo Bartle, Associate of Purcell said: “It has been a privilege to work on this project with a team of dedicated, talented experts.
“We are now a part of the long and complex history of Auckland Castle a have left a legacy for future generations. It is wonderful to see the artwork return to the Castle again.”

The Castle will form the centrepiece of The Auckland Project visitor destination being created in Bishop Auckland, which will include a Faith Museum, Spanish Gallery, Walled Garden and restaurant as well as the already open Mining Art Gallery and Auckland Tower visitor centre.

The conservation of Auckland Castle is supported by the The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Heritage Conservation Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, The Charles Hayward Foundation, The Headley Trust, The Linbury Trust, The Rothschild Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and Richard Oldfield.

For more information visit, www.aucklandproject.org. To receive regular updates, follow The Auckland Project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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