Auckland Castle and Zurbaran paintings transfer complete

Zurbaran paintings The Zurbaran paintings have been at Auckland Castle for 250 years

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A County Durham castle, home to a collection of 17th Century religious paintings, has been handed over to its new owners.

Auckland Castle was in danger of being sold off by the Church Commissioners, but was saved with a £15m donation by businessman Jonathan Ruffer.

It has now been transferred to a newly created charitable trust.

Paintings by Spanish artist Francisco Zurbaran, which have hung there for 250 years, are also included in the deal.

The Auckland Castle and Zurbaran Trusts plan to turn the former home of the Bishops of Durham into a heritage tourist attraction.

Rowena Hackwood, chief executive of the Auckland Castle Trust, said: "It's been a long haul but we've got there.

"The castle and the paintings have been saved for the people of the North East, which was always the most important factor in all of the negotiations.

"For 800 years the region has served the castle, now we want to turn the tables and make sure that the castle becomes the servant of its surroundings."

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, said: "I look forward to seeing the excellent work that has now started being developed over the coming months, and being brought fully into fruition."

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