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Bishop Of Durham (Palace)

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, how much the Church Commissioners have spent on (a) dilapidations and (b) other works at the palace of the Bishop of Durham in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners
(Sir William van Straubenzee)

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate them in the Official Report. However, total expenditure by the Church Commissioners over the last 10 years was £816,000.

Can my hon. Friend say whether that is the truthful expenditure on the palace of the Bishop of Durham, or whether other money is being spent, and if so, from what sources, and why it is being spent? Is it not possible for the Bishop of Durham to live in more modest surroundings, instead of at such enormous cost?

Of the total of about £940,000 which has been spent on the chapel at Auckland castle, about £320,000 was met by grants from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Auckland castle is a great ancient and historic house, and I understand that there are very strong feelings in the diocese that the bishop of the diocese should continue to reside there. It is illustrative of the great burdens on the Church. For example, we have had to provide £6,300 for the replacement of beetle-infested timbers. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want the bishop to be infested with beetles.

Is my hon. Friend aware that most people who care about these matters will be glad that the money is being spent? I remind him that Auckland castle is far more important than any of its temporary inhabitants, and far more inspirational than any of them.

I listen carefully to what my hon. Friend, with his special skills in this matter, tells me, but he will join me in reminding ourselves that this is money that could otherwise be spent on stipends and other matters, and is part of the very expensive heritage of buildings of the Church of England.

Will my hon. Friend consider hiring a reliable medium to take advice from the late Bishop Hatto about how the inhabitants of the building should be entertained and preserved?

I should be very grateful if my hon. Friend would volunteer for that task.

Following are the figures:

Expenditure on dilapidations and other works by the Church Commissioners on the Bishop of Durham's official house (Auckland castle) over the last 10 years has been as follows:


Other works





Year to 31.03.764,3481254,473
Year to 31.03.776,493276,520
Year to 30.03.7824,0098,52032,529
Year to 31.03.7957,3255557,380
Nine months to 31.12.7942,5341,24343,777
Year to 31.12.80118,5103,941122,451
Year to 31.12.81131,58113,967145,548
Year to 31.12.82269,26420,095289,359
Year to 31.12.8317,45613,73031,186
Year to 31.12.8453,32529,75083,075

(As a result of the commissioners changing their financial year, the period to 31.12.79 covers only nine months).