There’s a new bustle to Bishop Auckland these days, and it’s not before time. It’s been a sad little place for the last many years, but finally someone has taken pity on it and started to breath new life into the dejected streets. There’s still an impoverished look to the shops, in common with many of our high streets, but change is afoot. In the vanguard, No. 42 leads the way with it’s fiercely pointy roof. Describing itself as a gateway to both past and future, upstairs the Pod provides studio space to encourage artistic creativity. And look! The yarn bombers are about.
It all began with Auckland Castle, and a vision to turn it into a faith, art and heritage destination on an international scale. Jonathan Ruffer, Chairman of the Auckland Project, has never lacked for ambition, but what is being achieved in Bishop Auckland is remarkable. Back in 2014 I took you on a walk through the beautiful castle and grounds, with their distinctive Deer House. A highlight of the post was the story of the paintings by Spanish master, Francisco de Zurbaran. Auctioned for in excess of 15 million pounds, they were bought by Ruffer and the Trust he set up, to enable them to stay in Bishop Auckland. They are soon to feature in a state of the art Spanish Gallery, opposite the new Mining Museum, on Market Square. The castle is closed to the public and the gardens a bit of a mess until they reopen in December this year. Meantime Kynren, a spectacular action show, taking you through 2000 years of history, will enliven the grounds again this summer. I need to book a ticket.
The town isn’t lacking in history, having strong links with the Prince Bishops of Durham. Surrounded by the mining industry until its decline, the town was once a railway hub and has an enormous entry in Wikipedia, for those who might be interested. I’ll leave you with that happy chappy, Stan Laurel, who lived in the town as a child. “Another fine mess you’ve got me into”.
Speaking of which, I didn’t have my camera that day, and had to improvise with some shots taken on my phone. Scratches head! You’ll get a better look around, and a peep at the paintings, on my original Auckland Castle post.