A CULTURAL centre with a fascinating history is celebrating record-breaking attendances for the past year.

Ushaw Historic House and Gardens exceeded 53,000 visitors during 2019 – an increase of more than 20 per cent on the previous year.

For the past eight years ago, Ushaw, on the outskirts of Durham, has now been reborn as a tourist attraction, events venue, business centre, and creative hub.

Peter Seed, Ushaw’s Director of Operations, said: “We are thrilled that we have been able to sustain steady growth. In 2018, we were delighted with 43,000 visitors, and now we’ve broken the 53,000 mark.

“What’s really nice is that people aren’t just coming to Ushaw once – they are coming back – and we are continuing to explore new ways to open up the estate and attract even more visitors.”

Christmas was particularly successful, with the annual Christmas Tree Festival – this year featuring 160 trees – proving popular.

Ushaw was also turned into a giant advent calendar by artist Stuart Langley, who filled 24 windows in the main façade with neon lights and projections.

More than 1,000 people attended four carol services, maintaining a tradition dating back to the 1970s.

“It was great to see and hear the place being brought to life for Christmas – it was a magical atmosphere,” said Mr Seed.

Plans to increase visitor numbers for 2020 will be based on developing existing events and introducing news attractions to enrich the calendar.

“We have to continue to look upwards and we hope to be able to make some really exciting announcements in the near future,” said Mr Seed.

Durham County Show, which was revived at Ushaw last year, will return as a bigger event.

A flower festival, last staged in 2018, is also scheduled for the autumn, and the successful brass and jazz festivals will remain on the agenda.

Proposals to redevelop the derelict junior school part of the site, which was formerly used as a college for training priests, are also being worked through.