BOSSES at Auckland Castle have unveiled details of the multi-million pound project they hope will turn the former medieval stronghold into a tourist hotspot.

The £17m project to develop the castle, in Bishop Auckland, will feature a two storey annexe holding a museum, which will house a display called 5,000 Years of Faith containing objects charting the history of the British Isles through faith and religion.

Auckland Castle Trust expects to submit the proposals to Durham County Council this Autumn, and talks have been held with groups such as Bishop Auckland Civic Society and English Heritage.

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Providing council approval is granted, it is hoped that work will start at the end of next year with the project being completed in time to open in spring 2018.

David Ronn, Auckland Castle’s chief executive, said: “This is an ancient site and a building dating back 1,000 years.

“To incorporate any addition into such a setting is both architecturally and historically challenging, but we are creating something extremely special here at Auckland Castle.

“I am hugely excited by what we are doing here and by what the future holds. We’ve the chance to do something exceptional for the castle and for Bishop Auckland.

“It’s a chance, to create an extraordinarily beautiful building that blends the past with the future and which will house a world class exhibition.”

Auckland Castle Trust will contribute £7m to the plans, while a bid is to be lodged with the Heritage Lottery Fund for the other £10m.

The museum will be built on to the castle’s existing 16th century Scottish wing, so called because it once housed Scottish prisoners, and will offer about 450sq m of display space.

The Scottish wing will be renovated at the same time along with the remainder of the castle and its state rooms.

It is proposed to give the extension the feel of a medieval tithe barn with a long steep roof.

The project forms part of an overall £50m scheme by Auckland Castle Trust to convert the former home of the Bishop of Durham into a major heritage site.

Several features such as a welcome tower at the castle entrance have already been proposed.

It is estimated that the overall plan will draw upwards of 130,000 visitors a year to the castle and generate more than 100 jobs.