An expanding North East construction company has been awarded the contract to restore a 900-year-old County Durham castle.

Meldrum Construction Services Ltd, based in Gateshead, will be returning Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland to its original Georgian Gothic opulence on behalf of regional charity, Auckland Castle Trust (ACT).

The multi-million pound project, supported thanks to National Lottery players by a grant of £11.4million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will be managed by Darlington-founded construction management consultancy, Turner & Townsend and internationally acclaimed architects, Purcell.

Project Manager, Geoff Brown, said:  “The restoration of Auckland Castle is a significant project for ourselves, incorporating both a wide range of repairs, replacements and redecoration to the existing castle, and the construction of an extension to create contemporary gallery space.

“We will be working closely with Meldrum, Purcell and Auckland Castle Trust’s Curatorial Team to ensure this is all carried out in-keeping with the historic nature of the building, as well as modern regulations.”

Meldrum, which has an annual turnover of around £30m, specialises in Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, with previous contracts including The Bruce Building, and St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle and the Sunderland Empire Theatre.

Since being founded in 2001 the company has employed more than 120 trainees and apprentices and is fully committed to supporting ACT’s vision of utilising local talent and offering further opportunities for skills development.

Around half of Meldrum’s current 190 employees, including time-served carpenters, bricklayers, welder/fabricators, ground workers, plant operators and electricians, will be involved in the Auckland Castle project, with a minimum of 60 expected to be on site at any one time.

Dave Meldrum, Managing Director, Meldrum Construction Services Ltd, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won such a prestigious contract and are now looking at ways in which we can involve the local community and maximise the opportunities we can offer them while working in Bishop Auckland.”

Meldrum will be working alongside lead consultant and conservation accredited architects, Purcell, as well as Auckland Castle Trust’s Curatorial Team, to repair, restore and re-present the Grade I listed Castle in a way that better tells the story of its former residents, the Prince Bishops of Durham.

Purcell, which has 15 offices across the UK, as well as sites in Asia Pacific and Australia, has already worked on a number of similar projects, including the restoration of Durham Cathedral, Kensington Palace, Tower Bridge and the National Maritime Museum.

Dr. Alexander Holton, Associate, Purcell, said:  ”Purcell are immensely proud to be part of one of the most ambitious and exciting heritage projects that has taken place in the North East for decades.

“Through the vision of the Auckland Castle Trust, and its Chairman, Jonathan Ruffer, the site will be transformed into a world-class visitor destination that will continue to act as a platform for social and economic regeneration throughout County Durham and beyond.”

The restoration of Auckland Castle, which is due for completion in Spring 2018, is being supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), 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 the Overstone Fund.

It forms part of a wider £70m programme by Auckland Castle Trust, designed to revitalise Bishop Auckland, create opportunities for training and skills development and boost the local economy.

Within the Castle complex, where Purcell is the overall lead architect, this also includes an extension to Auckland Castle’s Scotland Wing, which will house a new museum exploring the history of faith in the British Isles.

The Faith Museum, designed by award-wining Niall McLaughlin architects, is also being constructed by Meldrum in partnership with Turner & Townsend and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Jerusalem Trust.   It is due to open in 2019.

For more information about this, and Auckland Castle Trust’s other Future Plans, please visitwww.aucklandcastle.org