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About Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone

Bishop Auckland's Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) has been created to improve the town's historic centre and bring it back to being a vibrant market town for both locals and visitors.

Historic England: Heritage Action Zone logoThe HAZ is an area of regeneration in Bishop Auckland's conservation area, that has been agreed by Historic England, who are providing funding.

We've agreed a delivery plan of economic, social and cultural regeneration. This includes 44 projects across five years, from April 2018 to March 2023.

The project will look at:

  • buildings at risk
  • buildings that have suffered from retail decline
  • bringing buildings back into use through grant schemes
  • researching historic buildings
  • organising events and activities for schools and the local community

The Icon for pdf Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone map (PDF, 3.3mb) shows the area covered.

Contact us if  you want to receive email updates on the project, or if you are interested in volunteering opportunities such as talks or working with local schools.

The project explained

Icon for pdf Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone transcript (PDF, 77.3kb)

Find out more about the project from a BBC Radio Tees report:

Icon for pdf BBC Tees Heritage Action Zone transcript (PDF, 19.6kb)

Delivery Plan

The Heritage Action Zone has an agreed Delivery Plan that is reviewed each year. The plan was agreed in May 2018 and was produced following a series of discussions with local organisations, groups and individuals. The programme is set around a number of themes, and projects are aligned to the aims of the HAZ. Projects range from a large scale grant programme down to small community-led events. Projects include administration and project management, as well as practical building projects, surveys and research, skills training, and promotion, and engagement activity.

Download a summary of the plan and report on progress to March 2020: Icon for pdf Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone Delivery Plan Summary (PDF, 1.4mb) .



Research helps to establish what is and is not significant about key buildings. It also helps to reduce/remove risk to buildings or sites by looking at future development options and possible re-use. The research may also assist in identifying listed buildings that need their description reviewing, or potentially new buildings that need listing. The research we're working on includes:

Historic Area Assessment (HAA)

The fieldwork for the Historic Area Assessment is almost complete. Doing an HAA will show where the past is found in today's landscape, explaining why it is as it is and highlighting its more significant elements.

The research team have moved onto finding additional information through searching local, regional and national archives. A first draft of the Assessment should be complete by Autumn 2020. This study provides an evidence base for future developments.

Buildings research

We'll choose several buildings for in-depth research, analysis and interpretation, including their history and development of the structures internally and externally. From this we can gauge the significance of each building in terms of its contribution to the town centre character area and its immediate setting. These reports will be used to inform the future management and redevelopment. 

The first three buildings reports are complete:

  • the Old Cooperative Building on Newgate
  • the Mechanics Institute on Victoria Avenue
  • 25 Newgate Street, The McIntyre Building

The reports can be downloaded from Historic England: research reports

Economic study

The Economic Study was completed in Autumn 2019. It includes a review of regional and national reports to identify best practice for the regeneration of town centres. Around 30 surveys were undertaken in vacant buildings in the town, with a smaller number in the high vacancy areas in the town having a repair and redevelopment review and outline proposals drawn up.  This study enabled the submission of a funding bid to Historic England for a Conservation Area Grant scheme, match funded by Durham County Council as well as contributions from building owners and tenants.

Conservation Area Grant Scheme

The Conservation Area Grant Scheme was launched in October 2019. It provides grants to property owners to carry out repairs to the external and internal fabric of buildings. The grants are currently targeted at a small number of properties in the high vacancy areas of the town. If a property is not on this list, then it may still be eligible for assistance from the Targeted Business Improvement Grant Fund. The grant scheme is aiming to fill vacant premises bringing them back into use for retail, service businesses or possibly conversion into residential space. As a result, we hope this will create new businesses, jobs and increase footfall in the town. Bringing buildings back into use will also benefit other businesses in the town.

First grant awarded

Queensway Orthodontics before and after

The first grant was awarded in January 2020 to Queensway Orthodontics who have purchased 10 Newgate St and have renovated this to provide treatment surgeries for orthodontic works. This business will generate footfall of 14,000 per year, create 17 jobs and 3 self-employment opportunities and bring 332sqm of space back into use.

Improvement work

  • Work has been carried out along Newgate from the Market Place to Princess Street to remove concrete blocks, renew benches and street furniture to give the area a makeover.
  • St Anne's Church needs repairs to its roof on the southern elevation. We are working with the church to scope the work and make applications for funding.
  • We are working with King James Academy to bring two buildings back into use. A toilet block and the Kings Lodge former caretaker's residency on the South Church Road.
  • Plans have been approved for the conversion of the former Beale's department store into either apartments or a hotel.
  • Plans have been approved for redevelopment of the site of the former King James Lower School on South Church Road. This includes apartments behind the original fa├žade and bungalows to the remaining land.

Castle Chare

Castle Chare

Work to repair the water fountain at Castle Chare is now complete. The water fountain has been repaired, the footway across the site has been extended and a stone surround laid around it with the remainder of the the area covered with limestone chipping. An interpretation board has been installed telling the history of the fountain and the surrounding area.

West Mural Tower

West Mural Tower before and after

The Tower forms part of the original defensive outer wall of the Auckland Castle complex and has been derelict for many years. In 2019 a programme of works was agreed to bring the building back into use. Work included stabilising the existing building, removing and then rebuilding some of the walls using original stone, reinstating the medieval roof using green oak and other traditional materials, recreating the first floor first and installing windows and basic services.

The project recruited volunteers who have been an integral part of the team being involved in all aspects of the project. They were involved in project meetings and undertook practical tasks including pointing and lime washing. They helped to organise five Heritage Days, sharing their unique perspective of the project.

The Tower was removed from the Historic England At Risk Register in October 2019. One project complete and now award winning when it was awarded the trophy for Craftmanship at the 30th Durham County Council Environmental Awards.

Schools and community work

We are working with the secondary schools and the college to get children involved with the town's history and heritage. We will also be organising a programme of events, working in partnership with other local organisations, including exhibitions, talks, workshops and festivals. 

Heritage Open Day tour

In 2018 and 2019 we held a tour which told the history of the town through key buildings and looked at the programme of conservation and restoration that will transform and revitalise the town

History and Heritage Festival 2019

Working with over 20 local organisations we organised 30 events run over a 16-day period in September 2019. These included an archive film screening, history fair, exhibitions, talks and walking tours.  2,539 people attended the events coming from the town, local area and north east region.

History and Heritage Festival 2020

We are planning for another festival in October. This will be a series of digital events and activities available online to replace the main festival programme.

Midsummer Cushions

Local primary schools Victoria Lane Academy Coundon, Woodhouse Close and Escomb took part in our workshops to recreate Midsummer Cushions. In the 1800's there was a lovely custom in Bishop Auckland to celebrate the summer equinox. Wooden stools coated with a layer of clay were placed at many street corners in the town, and local people would press all kinds of summer flowers into the clay to make what were known as "Midsummer Cushions". Working with artist Betty Barnet Brown the children used recycled materials such as waste packaging and upcycled fabrics to make flowers to stick into their "cushions" which will be made from foam and mounted on a metal three- legged stool.

Experience Bishop Auckland

This was a temporary exhibition of town images through the ages from large size reproductions of Victorian lithographs to photos from the County Records Office and the Historic England Archive. Pupils from secondary schools in the town enjoyed workshops in photography, creative writing and mixed media art.

Virtual tour

The rich history of Bishop Auckland's town centre is celebrated in a new virtual guided tour, which has been created by Historic England. Visit Historic England: Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone to find out more.

Advisory group

Our advisory group includes representatives from Historic England, Durham County Council, Bishop Auckland Civic Society, Bishop Auckland Town Council, Bishop Auckland Town Team, The Auckland Project and The Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Partnership. We are working with the Brighter Bishop Auckland Regeneration Partnership to provide research, specialist support, public engagement and grant aid.

Historic England logo

In partnership with

  • Historic England
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Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone
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