Church will sell historic Zurbaran paintings

ZURBARANS MEETING: Auckland Castle, where the meeting took place yesterday

ZURBARANS MEETING: Auckland Castle, where the meeting took place yesterday

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Editor

THE Church Commissioners are pressing ahead with the sale of a historic set of paintings and are yet to make a decision about the fate of Auckland Castle.

The commissioners, who look after the Church of England’s assets, were at the castle yesterday to listen to views about whether it should remain as the home and office of the next Bishop of Durham.

But of the Zurbaran paintings, the commissioners’ secretary, Andrew Brown, said: “We are certainly pressing ahead with the sale.”

The set of 13 paintings, which have hung in the castle for 260 years and represent a plea for religious tolerance, are likely to be auctioned in the summer.

A working group, led by Sir Paul Nicholson, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, has been given the task of finding alternatives to the sale, which the commissioners hope will raise £15m.

Asked how much the alternatives would have to raise to prevent the sale, Mr Brown said: “Here on January 5, I don’t know the answer to that.

“We are very mindful of heritage. We are sitting in a fantastic building, but our principal objective is to support the work of the Church of England.

“We contribute 16 per cent of the costs of running the Church and we seek to grow that support to improve its ministry and reach throughout the country.

“At the end of the day, our main aim is not the maintenance of heritage. Our main aim is to support the work of the Church of England.

“For all organisations the current economic climate is challenging and the Church is no different, and so the use of the capital raised – at the moment the paintings do not produce an income and they cost to insure – would go to pay the full annual costs of ten priests.

“We are not going to hypothecate, but we do focus on the poorer dioceses.”

The Zurbarans are housed in what is said to be Europe’s first purpose-built art gallery, built by Bishop Richard Trevor. “I think it is a very interesting story and they are wonderful paintings,” said Mr Brown.

Yesterday’s meetings were described as “very helpful and very fruitful”.

Mr Brown said: “The purpose is for the Bishopric and Cathedrals Committee and the Board of Governors to acquaint themselves with Auckland Castle, to listen to local views from within the church and wider as to where the Bishop of Durham should be based.”

A decision on the castle’s fate is expected within months.

About 16 people attended the meetings, including Councillor Simon Henig, the leader of Durham County Council.

He said: “We have made it clear that we believe that both Auckland Castle and the Zurbaran paintings are an integral part of the heritage, culture and economy of Bishop Auckland and the wider area.

“To protect the immediate future of the paintings, we are also maintaining our stance that the paintings form part of the listed status of the buildings.

As such, should the commissioners wish to move them, they would need to seek planning consent to do so.”

Refused access to commissioners’ meeting

A PARISH councillor who tried to attend yesterday’s meeting at Auckland Castle has expressed her disappointment at being turned away.

Valerie Whitby, who is a member of Heighington Parish Council, in County Durham, and a member of the Church of England, went to Bishop Auckland with her husband, John, in an attempt to get into the meeting, but was told it was private and the couple were refused access.

Mrs Whitby said: “We thought that as members of the Church we could go.

“There were about seven cars outside. We spoke to someone from the clergy, who was very polite, and we said we represented the people of County Durham.

“We were very disappointed that we had taken the trouble to go and we were denied access.

It was not as if there was 200 people outside trying to get in, there was just two of us.

“I can understand that we could not speak, but we were disappointed at not being able to go in and listen.”

She accused the Church of England of short-sightedness at not allowing the public to attend the meeting or consulting with the wider community of County Durham, especially Church members.

She said: “We understand times are hard for everybody and people have made great sacrifices.

“It is very disappointing to find out Church members are not being consulted. There should be some kind of open meeting. It is unacceptable that it is all going on behind closed doors.

“Bishop Auckland would be bereft without the castle providing a home to the Bishop.”

Comments (6)

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11:10am Thu 6 Jan 11

Journos_against_job_cuts says...

Members of the National Union of Journalists who produce this newspaper are on strike after going 1000 days without a pay rise and being told eight jobs are being cut. Despite this the chief executive of Newsquest has seen his pay increase by more than £100,000 and his pension contributions rise by more than £50,000.
Members of the National Union of Journalists who produce this newspaper are on strike after going 1000 days without a pay rise and being told eight jobs are being cut. Despite this the chief executive of Newsquest has seen his pay increase by more than £100,000 and his pension contributions rise by more than £50,000. Journos_against_job_cuts
  • Score: 0

4:47pm Thu 6 Jan 11

Nicholas_Till says...

“For all organisations the current economic climate is challenging and the Church is no different..."

(Andrew Brown, Church Commissioners)

So why not do the decent thing and forego some of what it takes and spends, as many individuals and organisations now have to?

The asset-stripping sought by the Commissioners at Auckland Castle is quite indefensible. It is in the name of funding projects and posts that are probably nebulous even to themselves.

The Council, meanwhile, are coming well out of this one. Perhaps they have learnt something from the disasters of Durham City Vision.
“For all organisations the current economic climate is challenging and the Church is no different..." (Andrew Brown, Church Commissioners) So why not do the decent thing and forego some of what it takes and spends, as many individuals and organisations now have to? The asset-stripping sought by the Commissioners at Auckland Castle is quite indefensible. It is in the name of funding projects and posts that are probably nebulous even to themselves. The Council, meanwhile, are coming well out of this one. Perhaps they have learnt something from the disasters of Durham City Vision. Nicholas_Till
  • Score: 0

11:03pm Thu 6 Jan 11

Jolly Roger says...

NUJ reply has nothing to do with this article and you lot should keep your comments to the subject.

But since you have brought it up, how many Printers jobs have you taken over the years many.



But I would really like to say that Auckland Castle does not belong to the people of BA but the church, so they can do what they like, because you lot would not like it if someone said to you - you cannnot seel you house as it is important historically to BA.
NUJ reply has nothing to do with this article and you lot should keep your comments to the subject. But since you have brought it up, how many Printers jobs have you taken over the years many. But I would really like to say that Auckland Castle does not belong to the people of BA but the church, so they can do what they like, because you lot would not like it if someone said to you - you cannnot seel you house as it is important historically to BA. Jolly Roger
  • Score: 0

6:57pm Fri 7 Jan 11

bishop1 says...

I have never been in auckland castle & have therefore never seen these paintings .
as already said , the paintings are theirs to do with as they please .
I have never been in auckland castle & have therefore never seen these paintings . as already said , the paintings are theirs to do with as they please . bishop1
  • Score: 0

10:21pm Sun 9 Jan 11

lfp says...

Another nail in the CHRISTIAN CROSS.
Another nail in the CHRISTIAN CROSS. lfp
  • Score: 0

10:23pm Sun 9 Jan 11

Well hello says...

Let the paintings go, & then the Church Commissioners can sell Auckland Castle to the Town Council for princely sum of £1-00p. I hear you ask, what do you mean? The Town Council doesn't want the Castle, it couldn't afford the maintenance, well neither can the Church. There is no argument here at all? The Labour M.P should move in & then let the faithful 3000+ subsidise it for her. The castle is a liability!
Let the paintings go, & then the Church Commissioners can sell Auckland Castle to the Town Council for princely sum of £1-00p. I hear you ask, what do you mean? The Town Council doesn't want the Castle, it couldn't afford the maintenance, well neither can the Church. There is no argument here at all? The Labour M.P should move in & then let the faithful 3000+ subsidise it for her. The castle is a liability! Well hello
  • Score: 0

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