Faith museum opens doors in Bishop Auckland

A new museum that explores the ways in which faith has shaped lives and communities across Britain has opened in Bishop Auckland.

The Faith Museum at Auckland Project will give visitors the chance to explore the diverse historical impact of faith across Britain. Situated within the renovated Auckland Castle, the museum boasts an extensive collection of rarely seen artifacts, personal narratives, and contemporary exhibits.

The project, which falls under the wider restoration initiative of Auckland Castle, was made possible through a substantial £12.4 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, funded by the contributions of National Lottery players. The support from The Jerusalem Trust and the Kirby Laing Foundation further bolstered the museum’s development.

Within a 740sqm space, the museum’s ground floor traces the evolution of faith over a span of 6,000 years, featuring an array of loaned objects from various national and local institutions, complementing The Auckland Project’s existing collection. On the upper floor, visitors are treated to a series of rotating exhibitions and installations, showcasing the interpretations of faith by contemporary British artists.

Amidst the impressive historical display, significant attention was paid to the architectural and conservation aspects of the museum. The restoration of the Grade I listed Scotland Wing of Auckland Castle, led by Purcell architects, incorporates modern functionalities while preserving historical authenticity. The purpose-built extension, designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects, paid homage to medieval design using locally-sourced Cop Crag sandstone.

Looking forward, the museum aims to foster an active engagement with the community through a series of planned events, discussions, and educational programs.

The Faith Museum was officially opened on Saturday 7 October by Edward Perry, CEO of The Auckland Project, Jane Ruffer, Co-Founder of The Auckland Project, and Carol Pyrah, Trustee and Chair of the England, North Committee, for The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Jonathan Ruffer, Founder of The Auckland Project, says: “The Faith Museum turned out to be the hardest piece of our jigsaw. We have tried to tell stories which put into context 6,000 years of human endeavour and the of the human spirit.”