A former power base of some of northern England’s most influential figures is to open to the public following a three-year conservation project.
Auckland Castle, formerly the private palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham, was bought from the Church of England by City tycoon Jonathan Ruffer in 2012.
He has injected millions into the Bishop Auckland economy, having already funded the spectacular Kyren live action show which depicts 2,000 years of English history.
The Prince Bishops commanded great wealth and exercised political and military power second only to the King for over 750 years, and had the authority to raise armies, influence laws and mint their own coins.
Bishops of Durham lived in the castle until 2010.
Auckland Castle has been returned to its original Georgian Gothic splendour and visitors will be able to follow the 18th Century processional route through to the State Rooms, leading to the Throne Room, where the Prince Bishops entertained important guests.
It is home to a collection of precious objects massed by the Prince Bishops as symbols of their status.
These include the series of paintings, Jacob And His Twelve Sons, by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbaran, which were bought at auction by Bishop Trevor in 1756, and are returning to Auckland Castle following an international tour.
“I’m pleased that anyone can now come and visit this historic building and discover the rich tales and treasures of our shared history.
“The castle was the starting point for the journey of The Auckland Project and its wider purpose; historically the people of Bishop Auckland served the castle – but now it’s the other way round.”