Matthew Neville

Bishop Auckland construction firm completes restoration of historic monument following "unique" discovery

Vest Construction, based in Bishop Auckland, has recently completed restoration of the historic Robinson Arch in Market Place which is the formal entrance to Auckland Castle.

This restoration was conducted as part of the Auckland Project, which is dedicated to the regeneration, conservation, and celebration of the stories and heritage of the former home of the Prince Bishops of Durham.

Robinson Arch is a Grade I listed building overlooking Market Place but, more importantly, the entrance to the 800-year old estate and Palace, created and used by the Prince Bishops of Durham, commissioned by Bishop Trevor in 1760 and designed by Sir Thomas Rokerby.

The £500k project included intricate works to Bishop Auckland’s clock tower, which dates back to the mid-18th century. The tower required extensive refurbishment and restoration elements by a team of specialists after prolonged weathering, wood bearing insects, damp and age.

The project was awarded to Vest as part of an ongoing relationship with the Auckland Project which was shortlisted for the recent Constructing Excellence Conversion & Regeneration Award in October of 2021.

During the refurbishment work, it was discovered that the 450kg bronze bell was founded in circa 1175, 600 years before the tower was built. Historians found an inscription on the bell that translated to “Stephanus made me” which had been incised into the mould when the bell was made. Because of this discovery, refurbishment of the bell was commissioned.

The bell is thought to be unique for an English bell of this time, being considerably larger than other examples and is thought to be more similar to the German style bells of this period.

Gavin Vest, managing director of Vest Construction commented: “This was a really fantastic project to be appointed to. The historic archway was a real challenge because of the craftsmanship and intricacies involved but the end result is simply stunning and will certainly stand the test of time for future generations.

“It’s great to be part of something so historic, we feel very privileged to have been included in the project team and it’s certainly a point of pride for the company.”

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