WORK will start within weeks on a two-year scheme to restore and preserve historic buildings at Raby Castle park and gardens and transform it as a visitor attraction.

Lord Barnard, whose family home is Raby Castle, at Staindrop, said he has been determined, since his tenure began in 2016, to make the historic landmark an enjoyable and accessible haven for local people, as well as those visiting County Durham nationally and internationally.

He said: “The feeling was that Raby Castle and Park has been a visitor attraction for a long time and visitors even since the 18th Century have come here, but somehow it seemed to me that Raby was still very much under the radar, and it has a huge amount to share.

“One of the first things we did was change the paywall, so visitors could enjoy the facilities as well as part of the castle grounds without having to buy a ticket, which felt to us like a much more welcoming experience.

“So, our motivation for this scheme is to really open up the castle and the estate to a great many more people to enjoy.

“Raby Castle is the flagship of the dale and we wanted to create something that would make people really proud, where they can bring their friends and family and enjoy everything we have to offer.”

A computer generated image of how The Rising development at Raby Castle will look

A computer generated image of how The Rising development at Raby Castle will look

Known as The Rising, the project will see heritage buildings repurposed and new structures built to provide events and exhibition spaces, retail and dining experiences and a visitor information hub – all available without having to pay an entry fee. There will also be newly designed walled gardens, soft landscaping and a new entrance car park.

The first phase will be a bespoke children’s adventure playground on the site of the present Christmas tree plantation, planned to be open for Easter 2022, which will have a refreshment kiosk with a stargazing deck on the roof.

Lord Barnard said: “If you’d arrived in the 1970s, you’d have thought it was a nice place for a cup of tea – that was fine for then, but now it’s time to move on. We felt, apart from opening up the castle’s potential, we also really needed to look after people in a better way as well.

“So, the new Vinery café and restaurant will provide what we hope will be an attractive place to enjoy good food with a stunning view of the castle in the foreground, before taking a stroll through the new Duchess Walk – and all without having to pay for castle entry.

“With a new generation it is time for a new beginning, and we want to make sure that Raby is preserved for future generations to enjoy as well as our own.”

CGI of the Duchess’ Walk within The Rising development, left, and Lord and Lady Barnard in the grounds before work starts

CGI of the Duchess’ Walk within The Rising development, left, and Lord and Lady Barnard in the grounds before work starts

The Estate says that the renovation and development of The Rising will be an important two-year phase of a progressive five-year business plan – bringing together a programme of conservation, restoration, repair and upgrades to historic buildings such as Gainford Hall, Raby Castle Park and Gardens, Unthank, Spring Hill Cottage, The Scar Farm, Bowlees Farm, Beck Foot Farm and Hilton Hall.

The plans were passed by Durham County Council last December and housing developments on Raby land at Gainford and Staindrop will help fund the work.

Computer generated image of the Coach House

Computer generated image of the Coach House

“It is a huge project because of the number of beautiful and significant buildings within The Rising development – we couldn’t just have picked off bits and left the rest because these historic buildings would just have decayed beyond repair.

“I have memories of these buildings from my childhood, such as heaving bales of hay into the Dutch Barn when I was working on the farm during the summer but really these buildings haven’t had a lot of use for 50 years. It’s really time to bring them back to life for a wider audience to enjoy,” said Lord Barnard.

The Estate said a fundamental strand of the project is a commitment to greater engagement with local communities and continued support of training and community education programmes and social and charitable events.

Duncan Peake, Raby’s CEO, said: “We will continue the tradition of supporting the younger generation by providing apprenticeships, placements and training programmes.

“New volunteering and work experience opportunities within Raby Estate itself have already been created and external relationships with agencies such as Durham County Council, Visit Co Durham, Historic England and the North Pennines AONBs will be fostered to ensure Raby continues to support its local communities.

“This is a new era for Raby Castle, Park and Gardens allied not only to the opportunities presented by the introduction of high-quality new housing in Staindrop and Gainford, but also to a stated ambition by Raby Estates to greatly increase visitor engagement with the castle and gardens, heightening awareness and understanding of the heritage building and appreciating its value as a vital cultural landmark.

“While this development plan includes the creation of new revenue streams and the expansion of existing ones, helping to support the up-keep of the listed buildings and the Registered Park, it is also driven by the celebration of the intrinsic character and uniqueness that is Raby and we hope the community will be proud of the castle and everything it has to offer.”

Phase one of The Rising development programme will begin later this year, led by the senior development team and the appointment of a project manager to strategically deliver the build, which is due to be completed in 2023 and open to the public.


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