The Auckland Project launches new Friends scheme to mark its 10th anniversary
Friday, 5 August 2022

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A new supporter scheme has been launched by regeneration charity, The Auckland Project to celebrate all that has been achieved in its first 10 years and to support its big ambitions for Bishop Auckland.

The Prince Bishop Friends Scheme is open to anyone who wishes to be part of The Auckland Project’s mission to realise positive, lasting change for the people of Bishop Auckland by establishing the town as a visitor destination of national and international importance.

As well as contributing to the transformative work of the charity, all those who sign up to become a Prince Bishop Friend will enjoy unlimited access to The Auckland Project’s attractions, including Auckland Castle, the Spanish Gallery, the Mining Art Gallery and Auckland Tower as well as a range of additional benefits such as priority booking, exclusive events and behind-the-scenes tours.

First launched in 2012, The Auckland Project – formerly known as the Auckland Castle Trust – was established by Jonathan and Jane Ruffer to secure the future of the 900-year-old Auckland Castle and the collection of Zurbarán paintings, Jacob and His Twelve Sons, which had hung there for more than 250 years.

Over the past decade, the charity’s mission has expanded beyond the Castle walls to focus on the regeneration of the wider town by creating assets and opportunities from the profits generated by its historic attractions, cultural venues and hospitality outlets.

Jane Ruffer said: “The Auckland Project started 10 years ago, with the desire of working with our local community here in Bishop Auckland. I was, as so many others have been, astounded by the town’s rich and unique history; the forming of The Auckland Project was a way of celebrating, protecting and sharing that heritage.

“The Auckland Project is a charity, and the support of Friends means that we can continue to offer skills and education support, create new jobs and apprenticeship schemes, support local businesses to thrive and make our buildings and outside gardens and parkland available to everyone.”

As well as the preservation of Auckland Castle and the opening of its popular attractions, The Auckland Project has clocked up an impressive list of achievements for its home town during the past 10 years, including:

  • Conserving 17 grade listed historic buildings, which are being brought back to life
  • The acquisition and ongoing restoration of Weardale Heritage Railway
  • Protecting 150 acres of historic parkland
  • A Community Food Project, which now supports 1,200 people every week
  • The development of 80 apprenticeships across the organisation
  • The creation of 132 new jobs, with 83% of employees living within 20 miles of Bishop Auckland
  • Establishing more than 30 local support networks
  • Developing 10 community engagement groups which reach more than 150 people per week
  • Providing regular support to 30 small businesses through the charity’s community hub

Looking forward to the next 10 years, The Auckland Project plans to build on these successes with the development of new restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions, to establish Bishop Auckland as a major tourist destination.

Chief Operating Officer, Robyn Brown, said: “The Prince Bishop Friends scheme has been launched to celebrate everything that has been achieved over the last 10 years and to support our vision for the future.

“It is our hope that the Prince Bishop Friends will become part of a movement of people working together to generate positive change and make a real difference to Bishop Auckland,” she added.

An annual individual membership to the Bishop Friends Scheme is priced at £85 and includes 4 x complimentary tickets for family and friends. An annual joint membership is £120 and comes with 6 x complimentary tickets for family and friends.

All friends enjoy unlimited entry to The Auckland Project’s attractions, access to exclusive events and experiences, priority booking and early bird tickets for seasonal events as well as a 10% discount on food, drink and retail prices.

For more information and to sign up, visit