A POPULAR County Durham tourist attraction has announced it is to close for good because of the “insurmountable challenge” posed by the economic effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham was subject to a ten-week forced closure due to coronavirus, with staff furloughed and weddings and other events postponed.

Despite the easing of lockdown, owners Maggie and Keith Bell said the business is about to go into liquidation.

Last month, they had said they were taking “tentative steps” to emerge from lockdown and were excited to welcome the first visitors since late-March.

The Northern Echo: Crook Hall and Gardens owners Maggie and Keith BellCrook Hall and Gardens owners Maggie and Keith Bell

But last night in an email to The Northern Echo, they said: “We are so very sad to let you know that Crook Hall and Gardens is about to go into liquidation.

“The economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has given us an insurmountable challenge, especially with it beginning at the start of what we had anticipated being our best ever season, and after a winter of investment for the year ahead.

“We are devastated about the effect this will have on our wonderful staff and customers. It is a horrible situation. We will have to put the hall and gardens up for sale as soon as is practical.”

The Grade I-listed hall and gardens is a popular destination for tourists visiting County Durham.

The site holds a medieval manor house which is one of the oldest inhabited houses in Durham city.

It became home to the Bell Family in 1995, and they have lived and worked on site for more than two decades.

Staff working at the attraction have all been made redundant and all future events have been cancelled.

Crook Hall and Gardens employed 19 permanent staff and double that in the holiday periods.

The owners said they spent time during the lockdown trying to work out how to continue but said it became increasingly difficult financially, and eventually became impossible.

Mrs Bell paid tribute to the business’s “wonderful” workers.