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Protection: top of the agenda in the great Auckland Castle rescue

9 Jul 2021
Case study

The magnificent Auckland Castle commands a prominent position overlooking the River Wear, surrounded by formal gardens and 150 acres of idyllic parkland. It is one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in the whole of Europe and is at the centre of The Auckland Project.

The 900-year-old castle, once home to the Bishops of Durham, closed in 2016 so that specialist conservators, including expert stonemasons, carpenters and historians, could transform the Grade I Listed building to its peak 18th Century glory. Auckland Castle re-opened to the public in November 2019, making this historic building accessible to the public.

The castle has become the heart of The Auckland Project, which is using art, faith, history and heritage to transform the quiet town of Bishop Auckland into a leading tourist destination.

The conservation scheme aimed to stabilise the historic fabric of the building while recreating the interiors of the state rooms and private apartments designed by Bishop Barrington and renowned architect James Wyatt.

The Auckland Project has spent upwards of £50m in its regenerative work, which includes a grant of £12.4m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Working closely with Meldrum Construction and architects Purcell; Selectaglaze provided the Castle with a bespoke secondary glazing solution to compliment the restoration.

As the castle is Listed, any measures taken had to be sympathetic to the building’s elegance and historical significance. Because secondary glazing is a discreet and reversible adaptation, it is ideal for Listed properties and can provide an unseen level of security and protection to any property, as well as raising thermal performance and noise insulation.

The decorative, geometric windows leading into one of the new galleries were treated by Selectaglaze. The grid-like designs, punctuated with an interlacing pattern, depict the arms of John Cosin (Bishop of Durham 1660-1672) who transformed the medieval great hall in the castle into the private chapel of the Bishops of Durham. 

A group of Gothic styled rooms not previously open to the public have now been repurposed as a gallery space. Selectaglaze installed slimline secondary units in the gallery that were curved at the top to fit perfectly against the primary windows in the exhibition space, very discreet for a heritage environment like Auckland Castle.

Meldrum’s contract also included the construction of an environmentally controlled extension for a new Faith Museum adjoining Auckland Castle.  The new Scotland Wing extension is clad in quarried sandstone from Cop Crag in Northumberland. The new area will house an exhibition charting the impact of faith on the British Isles.

A new gallery dedicated to Spanish art, inspired by “Jacob and His Twelve Sons”, a series of Zurbarán masterpieces which have hung in Auckland Castle for the last 250 years, is also due to open in Bishop Auckland Market Place. Selectaglaze has also installed several additional units in the Spanish Gallery.

Selectaglaze secondary glazed units reduce heat loss by up to 50% using standard glass and up to 65% with a thermally efficient glass (low-E). High performance compression seals will almost eliminate drafts and ensure much greater comfort near the window. Furthermore, they will reduce noise levels by 45dB (decibels). This can achieve World Health Organisation guidelines for quiet environments, perfect for galleries.

Overall, the newly renovated rooms are far better equipped to house exhibitions and museum collections. Selectaglaze is proud to have been involved in a restoration project that will generate a legacy for Bishop Auckland; supporting an attraction that will breathe new life and opportunities into the local economy and overall visitor experience.

Founded in 1966, Royal Warrant Holder Selectaglaze has considerable experience of working within Listed and sensitive buildings. An extensive range of literature and guidance notes covering acoustics, thermal performance and added security is offered, together with a technical advisory service and RIBA approved CPD Seminars. Sign up for monthly Selectaglaze e-bulletins, with recent updates, new blogposts and events.