£15m donation secures Zurbarán pictures for The North East
Church Commissioners announce vision for future of Auckland Castle
Late on Wednsday night (30th March) the Church Commissioners issued a significant statement about the future of Auckland Castle. It said:
It is intended that Auckland Castle shall become a leading public heritage site, bringing tourism and economic regeneration to the North East, under new plans revealed today by the Church Commissioners.
The Commissioners’ proposals have been made possible thanks to a £15m donation by investment manager Jonathan Ruffer, and discussions are now continuing with Durham County Council, the National Trust, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, the Art Fund and the National Gallery about the broader future for Auckland Castle.
Jonathan Ruffer’s contribution, made through a new charitable trust for the benefit of the people of the North East of England (the Zurbarán Trust) will ensure that the 17th century portraits of Jacob and his sons by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán can remain at Auckland Castle, their historic home since 1756. The Zurbarán Trust will provide, through the pictures, a symbolic statement of Christian hope through broken-ness and a practical help and encouragement to the people of the North East, from its base at Auckland Castle. The Commissioners will in turn be able to provide much needed additional funding for the Church’s work in communities throughout the country including the North East.
In addition, early conversations are taking place involving the National Trust and Durham County Council about opening up the historic castle – home of the Bishops of Durham for the past 800 years – and its grounds to provide much greater public access. To make this a reality, further funds will need to be raised. The Rothschild Foundation under the guidance of Lord Rothschild, a long term supporter of British heritage, has already committed to a donation of up to £1 million towards this and discussions are continuing with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and DCMS.
In response, Bishop Mark said: 'Subsequent to seeing the Press Release I have spoken to the Church Commissioners who have assured me that they are working on the basis that the Bishop’s ministry will continue to be based at Auckland Castle.
'This appears to be one of those wonderful situations where there are many winners. It is wonderful news for the people of the North East that these pictures are to stay here. It is wonderful news too that after 800 years the Bishop of Durham will still base his ministry at the Castle. It is wonderful news for the people of Bishop Auckland who will have a leading heritage site on their door step with all the opportunities that this will bring. It is wonderful too that Jonathan Ruffer’s generosity will release Church Commissioners funds to help fund The Church of England's work in some of the most challenging communities in our nation. There appears to be an enormous amount to be thankful for in this announcement.'
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