THE owner of a new ice cream parlour said she was inspired to open after a chance meeting with a philanthropist who bought a neighbouring castle.

The Bishop’s Parlour ice cream parlour and patisserie opened in Bishop Auckland marketplace on Monday and owner Tracey Overton said she expects it do well.

She said she has faith in the town centre after meeting Jonathan Ruffer at the Bishop Auckland Food Festival held at Auckland Castle in April.

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Mr Ruffer bought the castle and has invested in several other properties in the town with a view to making it a major visitor attraction.

But many have expressed concern about the town centre’s future after a shopping complex opened on the outskirts of town.

Ms Overton, who owns the business with her partner Peter MacPartland, said: “He was a lovely man and spoke so passionately about what he wants to happen in Bishop Auckland that I decided I wanted to get involved.

“Now we are open I am so excited and firmly believe this will work in Bishop Auckland.”

The Bishop’s Parlour has opened in a former girl’s school built in 1873 and has several themed rooms including one dedicated to Laurel and Hardy.

Stan Laurel, real name Stanley Jefferson, went to school in Bishop Auckland and there is a statue of him in the town.

The ice cream parlour offers a variety of flavours including bubblegum, melon and chilli sorbet, Horlicks and Maltesers and English Breakfast Marmalade.

It is open from 9am to late Monday to Saturday and 11am to late on Sundays.