A GRADE I listed building which acts as a gateway between a town centre and its historic castle attraction is being restored to its former glory.

Work has begun on the 18th Century Clock Tower in Bishop Auckland – a focal point of the Market Place which leads to the Auckland Castle estate – and is expected to take six months to complete.

Bishop Auckland-based Vest Construction is doing the restoration work, supported by specialist heritage contractors including Classic Masonry and Smith of Derby, which manufactured and installed the arch’s current clock mechanism in 1927.

Gavin Vest, managing director at Vest Construction, said: “It is wonderful to be able to continue our working relationship with The Auckland Project and help preserve one of Bishop’s most iconic and historic buildings.

"It is also a pleasure to be part of the overall scheme, which is certainly starting to breathe some life back into Bishop Auckland again.”

Local-based electrical engineers R Lightfoot are also involved in the project.

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Designed by Sir Thomas Robinson for Bishop Richard Trevor in 1760, the Grade I listed structure has remained largely unaltered ever since.

However, having suffered from a lack of fabric maintenance in recent decades, the building is in poor condition, and regeneration charity The Auckland Project have chosen to bring forward the repair to the Clock Tower while Auckland Castle is closed due to coronavirus.

To safeguard the building for the future, extensive masonry and timber repairs are planned; restoration of the clock face, mechanism and weathervane; redecoration of joinery; and installation of new electrical services.

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Clare Baron, head of exhibitions and interpretation at The Auckland Project, said: “As one of the most prominent buildings on the Market Place, it’s exciting to see work beginning.

"We hope to give this historic structure a new lease of life, so that visitors will be able to see, once again, just how magnificent it is in the context of the Castle grounds.

"The archway is a point of interest for many local people who walk through it every day on their way to the Deer Park, and by conserving the Clock Tower, we hope to welcome people in the best possible way."

Follow the progress on Facebook and at aucklandproject.org