The open bookcases and antique dining tables of Auckland Castle were once exclusively used by the Bishops of Durham. Soon everyone will be able to enjoy them, when the castle is transformed into a major historical attraction charting the history of Christianity in Britain.
Located in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, Auckland Castle was the property of the Diocese of Durham for over 800 years, and the Bishops’ official residence from 1832. In July of this year, ownership was passed to the Auckland Castle Trust (ACT) although it continues to be used for Diocesan work. The Trust has now begun a major programme of Restoration which will see the castle and grounds transformed into a permanent exhibition space showing the history of British Christianity.
The new museum is the brainchild of investment manager Jonathon Ruffer, a Christian who stepped forward when the Church of England decided to sell precious artworks that had been hanging in the castle for over 250 years. He offered £15m to keep the paintings where they were, but a chance meeting with Jacob Rothschild led to a deal being struck with the Church of England, in which Rutter got the castle, grounds and paintings for £11m.
At Leighton Hall in Lancashire, it’s the antique bookcases of the Gillow family, while Waddesdon has Lord Rothschild’s antique cabinets. Ruffer has rather grander ideas for Auckland Castle, basing his new Exhibition of Religion on the French mediaeval theme park Puy du Fou.
To recreate the ecclesiastical romance of Auckland Castle, visit an antique dealer in Lancashire and look for Victorian dining chairs and antique chests in the Gothic Revival style.
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