RESEARCHERS are preparing to delve into the heritage of three historic buildings in Bishop Auckland as part of a process to help bring them back to life.

Funded by Historic England, the three unoccupied buildings to be explored are the former Co-operative Store, which later became Beales department store, in Newgate Street, the McIntyre building, and the Mechanics Institute, in Victoria Street.

They all sit within the town’s Heritage Action Zone, an area that is recognised for its unique character and heritage potential by Historic England. All regeneration work within the Heritage Action Zone is project managed by Durham County Council.

Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of development and housing, said: “The results from these surveys will help us to better understand the history and heritage of the town and could be used to aid decision-making about repairs and future redevelopment plans.

“All three of the buildings are currently unoccupied but the Mechanics Institute has been unused for several years. We are not sure of the whereabouts of any of the institute’s members and have been unable to find ownership details at the Land Registry.

“We would like to talk to the owners about bringing the building back into use if possible. We’re appealing to anyone who has local knowledge about any members of the board of trustees, and would be grateful if they would contact us.”

Information can be sent via email on or by telephone on 03000-262052.

Trevor Mitchell, Historic England’s regional director in the North-East, said: “We hope that new life can be injected into these fine buildings, restoring them for people to enjoy once again. The surveys will look at the buildings’ history, identify their original features and how they contribute to local history. This will help to smooth the process of re-using them.”

The building surveys are just one of several research projects that Historic England will be carrying out as part of the five-year Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone programme. The plan is to revitalise the historic market town, making it a vibrant place for locals, businesses and visitors.

In May 2018 Bishop Auckland was awarded Heritage Action Zones status by Historic England, making it one of 20 nationwide.

Working in partnership with Durham County Council, the Brighter Bishop Auckland Regeneration Partnership and local people through an advisory group, the work of the Heritage Action Zone will build on major investment at Auckland Castle which is transforming the traditional home of the Durham Prince Bishops into an international faith, art and heritage destination.