Ambassador Visits County Durham for a Sneak Peek at the UK Home of Spanish Art

A senior Spanish representative has visited the North East to see how the art of his homeland is helping to revitalise a former industrial town.

His Excellency Don Carlos Bastarreche Sagües, Spanish Ambassador to the UK, took a tour of the former Barrington Bank and Backhouse School buildings in Bishop Auckland Market Place, where the UK’s first gallery dedicated to the arts and culture of Spain is currently under construction.

The Spanish Gallery, due to open in 2019, will form part of The Auckland Project, a new arts, faith and heritage destination, which is being created to help revitalise Bishop Auckland through employment, training and educational opportunities and to draw in visitors from across the UK and further afield to help oxygenate the town and surrounding region.

It was originally inspired by Jacob and His Twelve Sons, a series of paintings by Spanish master, Francisco de Zurbarán, which have hung in nearby Auckland Castle for more than 250 years.

While the paintings themselves are currently on tour in the USA, His Excellency Don Carlos Bastarreche Sagües was given the opportunity to see inside their 900-year-old home, which is undergoing a multi-million pound conservation programme by The Auckland Project, supported by National Lottery players via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Due to re-open to the public on December 1, 2018, Auckland Castle and its Zurbarán paintings will form the centrepiece of The Auckland Project’s new world class visitor destination, which will open in stages over the next three years.

Along with the Spanish Gallery, this also includes a Faith Museum, Walled Garden, Auckland Tower visitor centre, Deer Park, a hotel and a number of restaurants.

A research centre named in honour of Francisco de Zurbarán, The Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art, will also be run by Durham University in Bishop Auckland Market Place. The centre will directly link the Spanish Gallery’s exhibition programme to the latest academic study of Spanish and Latin American art.

During his visit, His Excellency Don Carlos Bastarreche Sagües, met with many of The Auckland Project’s 100 plus staff helping to bring this £130m+ vision to fruition, including Chair of the Leadership Team, Jane Ruffer, CEO David Maddan and Head Curator for Spanish Art, Dr Edward Payne.


His Excellency Don Carlos Bastarreche Sagües’ tour of The Auckland Project formed part of a two-day trip to County Durham, organised by Durham County Council and offered the opportunity for him to speak with The Auckland Project about potential ideas for further cooperation as the project goes forward.

The Auckland Project’s Spanish Gallery is supported by the Art Fund, Art Fund/National Gallery/Vivmar Foundation, Banco Santander, The Wolfson Foundation and Backhouse Foundation, with key partners including the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid and the Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas.

The conservation of Auckland Castle is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Heritage Conservation Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, The Charles Hayward Foundation, The Headley Trust, The Linbury Trust, The Rothschild Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and Richard Oldfield.

More information about The Auckland Project, including a full list of supporters, can be found online at or by searching Auckland Project on Facebook and Twitter.