Bringing a generation in the north–east to fulfilment

Auckland Castle Trust was set up in 2012 with the aim of using culture and heritage to reinvigorate Bishop Auckland and surrounding areas. Sparks helped the trust to launch its inaugural plans for restoration.

Auckland Castle  - Bringing a generation in the north–east to fulfilment
Auckland Castle  - Bringing a generation in the north–east to fulfilment


Auckland Castle in County Durham is one of Europe’s most historic sites. Jonathan Ruffer, the private client fund manager and philanthropist, launched Auckland Castle Trust with an ambitious vision: to transform this 900–year–old bishop’s palace into a world–class art, faith and heritage destination, to reinvigorate the region.

The castle has been home to Francisco de Zurbarán’s paintings Jacob and his twelve sons since 1756.

Auckland Castle Trust asked Sparks to help refine ideas and produce materials for a public consultation about its plans. We launched this project at the annual Bishop Auckland Food Festival which were hosted in the castle’s grounds in 2012.



The focus for the work was to develop a public consultation enabling the Auckland Castle Trust to seek feedback on preliminary plans.

To encourage local people to contribute views, we developed a campaign around the theme  ‘It’s your history’ to foster local ownership of the plans.

We developed visual themes using the castle’s history and its function as a haven. Jonathan Ruffer’s high–profile involvement in the “great Auckland Castle rescue” was a good starting point. His trust was both a protector and an access point to the local cultural heritage.


For the consultation event, we developed a range of supporting materials including a logo, brochure, film and website. Using the architecture of the Wyatt Gate within the castle’s grounds, we designed a simple logo employing County Durham’s traditional blue, combined with the gold of the ancient prince bishops. 


We launched the consultation at the Bishop Auckland Food Festival, an annual event held in the grounds of the castle. The day was a huge success, bringing over 20,000 visitors to see the Trust’s plans.

Exhibition stands set out the Auckland Castle Trust’s intentions, including profiles of the people running it, and drawings of how the project might develop. We also developed a visual timeline of the castle’s history, showing its evolution over hundreds of year.

One of the most important aspects of the work was to give local people a chance to make their voices heard. Lots of views were captured about how to reinvigorate the castle – “bringing history back to life,” in the words of one visitor. A roaming camera crew and a dedicated message board gave people the chance to record their ideas. This gave the Auckland Castle Trust a platform to hear a variety of views about the project.

The trust has become The Auckland Project, continuing to reinvigorate the local community through art and heritage projects.


“The team at Sparks were a pleasure to work with, introduced us to excellent partners, worked well with client feedback, and refined a solution that met our needs fully. We were impressed by the way in which Sparks delivered on our deadlines and the cheerful professionalism that we encountered at all times. With the involvement of local people being a key objective of our work with Sparks, we are delighted with the outcomes that we have achieved.”

Rowena Hackwood, Chief Executive, Auckland Castle Trust