Showing posts with label Auckland Castle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Auckland Castle. Show all posts

Monday, December 19, 2011


From an editorial in the Northern Echo:
IT is our fervent view at The Northern Echo that concluding a deal to save the historic Zurbaran paintings in Auckland Castle is crucial to the future prosperity of Bishop Auckland.

How else will the County Durham town find a way to have its own heritage tourist attraction – for that is what the castle and its grounds could be, with the Zurbarans as the centrepiece?

Without Jonathan Ruffer’s offer to invest £15m to make that a reality, the Zurbarans will almost certainly go abroad and the castle lost as a public asset.

Mr Ruffer has today told The Northern Echo that he is willing to “put a lot more money in” to break the deadlock that has developed between himself and the Church Commissioners who are selling the paintings.

It seems to us that Mr Ruffer has been more than generous in trying to save this important North-East heritage.
From Riazat Butt in the Guardian:
To Durham, where there is not much in the way of festive cheer now a £15m art deal has bitten the dust, and a fascinating insight into the Church of England, power and politics.

While the sale appeared to be on shaky ground for some time, the story has sprouted legs thanks to a remarkable and revealing article from banker and would be art-buyer Jonathan Ruffer, who blows the whistle in the latest edition of the Church Times on his spat with the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England's investment portfolio, and its top dog, Andreas Whittam Smith. Yes - that one.
From an interview with Jonathan Ruffer in The Northern Echo:
But today, the Church Times – the leading weekly Anglican magazine – carries a remarkable article by Mr Ruffer in which he says the two leading commissioners, Andreas Whittam Smith and Andrew Brown, are “decent men who have gone wrong” who have “torpedoed” the deals for the Zurbarans and the castle and so have delivered “two slaps in the face for County Durham”.

He says: “Andreas Whittam Smith is by nature a buccaneer: quick to offer the hand of friendship, decisive and brave. He generously accepted an apology for a remark I made which had hurt him.

“Andrew Brown is a very different character, the antithesis of the smutty joke: he is wholesome, serious, and dutiful.

He would make an excellent minor royal.

“Yet these men have managed to torpedo two deals, to the detriment of one of the neediest regions of the UK.”

Mr Ruffer paints a colourful picture of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, becoming involved in the debate. He writes: “I witnessed last month the Primate of All England pleading for the future of the castle.

The Archbishop pleading; Andreas untouchable, untouched.”

Mr Ruffer told the Echo he was defending his reputation with the article. He said: “I am explaining how someone can give a £15m gift and then go back on it – that seems a dishonourable thing to do and I look cowardly and untrustworthy.”

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, the new Bishop of Durham, said: “Both the Church Commissioners and Mr Ruffer are very committed to trying to make this work and benefit the area. I’m very grateful that they have agreed to meet me next week to discuss issues, and I am hopeful that progress can be made.”
MadPriest, who sent me the latest links to the story, says:
This looks like turning into a rather nasty baptism of fire for the new bishop. And he doesn't even get to live in the palace.
All right. Why do I care about the Zurbarán paintings in Auckland? For one thing, I spent quite a large number of British pounds on taxi fare to go from my hotel to the town of Bishop Auckland, which is a bit off the beaten path, to visit the castle, in particular to see the paintings of the partiarchs. Here's what I said in my post on my visit to Auckland Castle.
Ever since I heard of their possible sale and removal from their home setting, I've wanted to see the paintings, and my wish was realized. I was able to view the paintings in their proper setting, which was a memorable experience. The paintings and the dining room are indeed impressive. I was thrilled when I heard the news that Ruffer had stepped forward to make it possible for the paintings to remain in place in the dining room at the castle, where they had been since 1756.
Feeling blue. The row over Auckland Castle isn't helping the church in its ancient diocese, centred on Durham Cathedral, shown here during the city's Lumiere festival. Photograph: Gary Calton at the Guardian.

Photo at the head of the post from the Church Times.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


From Wikipedia:
Auckland Castle (also known as Auckland Palace or locally as the Bishop's Castle or Bishop's Palace) is a castle in the town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England.

The castle has been the official residence of the Bishop of Durham since 1832. However, it has been owned by the diocese for more than 800 years, being established as a hunting lodge for the Prince Bishops of Durham. It is more like a Gothic country house than a true castle with a military function.
Photos were permitted in the public rooms throughout the castle, with one exception. Below, in the center over the fireplace, is Michael Ramsey, who was Bishop of Durham before he was appointed Archbishop of York and then Archbishop of Canterbury. A larger view of the portrait is here.

The one exception to photos was the room I wanted to photograph most, the long dining room with Francisco de Zurbarán's paintings of Jacob and his sons. I was prepared to go from painting to painting and photograph them all, but it was not to be.
The castle's long dining room is home to 12 of the 13 17th century portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons painted by Francisco de Zurbarán. The room, in which they have hung for 250 years, was specifically designed and built for them. In 2001 the Church Commissioners voted to sell the paintings which have a £20m valuation, but relented until a review in 2010.

On 31 March 2011 Church Commissioners announced that plans to sell off the paintings were shelved following a donation of £15 million from investment manager Jonathan Ruffer.
Ever since I heard of their possible sale and removal from their home setting, I've wanted to see the paintings, and my wish was realized. I was able to view the paintings in their proper setting, which was a memorable experience. The paintings and the dining room are indeed impressive. I was thrilled when I heard the news that Ruffer had stepped forward to make it possible for the paintings to remain in place in the dining room at the castle, where they had been since 1756.

Exterior of the chapel at Auckland Castle from Wikipedia.

Interior of the chapel.

The castle is surrounded by 800 acres (3.2 km2) of parkland, which was originally used by the Bishops for hunting and is today open to the public.

Good-bye Auckland Castle, and good-bye to England. My visit to the castle was my final tourist activity before I left and a fitting end to my wonderful travels throughout the Green and Pleasant Land.

Of course, since I don't write of my travels in chronological order, but rather according to the whim of the moment, I have more stories and pictures to come.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


From the The Spectator:
‘It’s the pearl of great price,’ says Jonathan Ruffer. Like the merchant in the Gospel, he is selling all that he hath. With the proceeds, he is buying the 12 Zurbarán paintings of Jacob and his Brothers at Auckland Castle, the palace of the Bishop of Durham. And when he has bought them from the Church of England, he will give them back, keeping them in the castle, thus bestowing them upon the people of the north-east in perpetuity. The price is £15 million. He believes in the Big Society and is taking a big punt on it.

Last November, he heard that the Church, burdened by the expense of keeping Auckland Castle, wanted to sell the Zurburáns. He was horrified, and ‘shouted at’ the Church about it, but he suddenly realised that ‘I was the only person in a position to do anything about it. I happened to have £15 million [the price stated]. I wanted to do something for the north-east, where I come from. And I collect such paintings. Four years ago, I bought a Gainsborough copy of one of those Zurburáns of a cowled saint. My first thought had been a commercial one – that I could buy them for myself – but then I realised that there was something much more important to do.’
I've never seen the Zurbaráns, but I was excited and well pleased when I read the story at The Lead. My friend Cathy and I went to visit Durham Cathedral, but we did not visit Auckland Castle, because we were in a bit of a rush. When I heard the Church of England had decided to sell the paintings, I wanted to cry. The paintings belong together, and they belong in Auckland Castle, where they've been since 1756. Now the paintings will remain there, thanks to Ruffer, who purchased them sight unseen. Ruffer grew up in the village of Stokesley in North Yorkshire, and his heart is in the Northeast.
‘People underestimate the symbolic power of art,’ he says, ‘Look at the Angel of the North… These paintings are quite monumental.’
You can see photos of the paintings of Jacob and the patriarchs here. The painting of Jacob is pictured above.
But Ruffer is certainly enjoying himself. He sets out the Ruffer theory of money: ‘There are only three things you can do with it – spend it, save it or give it away. For the rich, saving is much more dangerous than spending, because you can see how empty spending is, but it’s harder to see that saving also is. What a lot of money does is poison you. It’s like the digestive system. It’s meant to flow through you, not to stop flowing.’
Now if only all the millionaires and billionaires in the world had Ruffer's attitude toward their money.

H/T to Nicholas Knisely at The Lead.

An article in the Northern Echo gives more information on the history of the Zurbarán patriarch paintings and their purchase by Bishop Richard Trevor of Durham in 1756. Benjamin is missing from Auckland Castle and hangs in Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire.