Royal Highnesses, The Duke of Gloucester and Duchess of Gloucester visited County Durham, this week (13th September), to recognise the region’s longstanding commitment to traditional skills training and heritage restoration.

As patron of the Cultura Trust, the national charity which has supported sustainable development and traditional values across cultural town and landscape development for over 50 years, The Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by his wife, The Duchess of Gloucester, spent time at Raby Castle as part of their day in the northeast.

Cultura Trust is currently leading a partnership between four leading organisations (Raby Estate, Durham County Council, English Heritage and the charity), to transform and secure the future of the castle at Barnard Castle, with plans to open up the outer ward and provide a new visitor centre and learning resource in the Market Place.

Raby Estates previously acquired a property in Barnard Castle’s Market Place, which formerly housed a NatWest bank branch. Currently undergoing repairs, the building will offer a great opportunity to link the marketplace and castle precinct. The inner ward of the castle, also owned by Raby Estates and managed by English Heritage under a Guardianship Agreement, is open to the public, and the hope is that the outer ward will also be reinstated for community use.








Both Cultura Trust and Raby Estates are providing continued support for the preservation of the region’s cultural heritage buildings, whilst also ensuring young people are learning the tools they need to succeed in a career in restoration and conservation.

Welcomed by Graham Bell, Cultura Trust’s director, and Raby Estates’ custodians, Lord and Lady Barnard, at Raby Castle, Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, began their visit with a presentation from a team of Croatian stonemasons, currently on a working visit to the UK organised by Cultura Trust.

“It was an honour to welcome Cultura Trust’s Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, to County Durham today. This visit was a unique opportunity to introduce them to the Trust’s partners, locally and internationally”, said Mr Bell.

“HRH The Duke of Gloucester trained as an architect, so the visit focused on the value and ‘international language’ of traditional skills held in common by Cultura, Raby Estates, and trainers and students from the Stonemasonry School of Croatia.”











In addition, the visit also included a presentation from Historic England’s geospatial team and members of English Heritage’s conservation team, showcasing the newly created 3D resources being used for conservation and tour interpretation of the castle at Barnard Castle.

Following lunch, their Royal Highnesses were escorted around Raby Castle’s landmark development The Rising, currently under construction in the grounds of the iconic castle.

The ambitious renovation and restoration scheme will provide hospitality, event and retail space outside the 700-year-old castle walls, for the whole community to enjoy. The tour around the 24 acre development, culminated in a walk around the recently completed eastern section of the historic Walled Garden, a beautiful garden for quiet contemplation crafted by Lady Barnard and world-renowned landscape designer Luciano Giubbilei.

Work in the garden, just a stone’s throw from the 14th century castle, has included extensive planting, the introduction of topiary elements and the creation of a unique tiered grass amphitheatre.

Lord Barnard said of the visit: “As we move into the second year of The Rising development, we are proud to showcase Raby’s investment in heritage crafts and skills training to Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. The Rising is a highly ambitious project, establishing a new tourism destination in the north of England, embracing and celebrating the restoration and conservation of our historical buildings.

“As part of our investment in the community, we are committed to providing continued training to revive past heritage crafts used in sustainable restoration, upholding the past, whilst embracing the best aspects of the present and future.”

The Rising development is due to open in late spring 2024. For more information, please visit: www.raby.co.uk/about-us/development/raby-castle-development/

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