bowes Museum in Barnard Castle

Church to sell £20m artworks

The Church of England confirmed yesterday it needed to sell a valuable collection of paintings housed in the North.

Church commissioners said plans to sell a collection of 13 paintings by 17th Century Spanish painter Francesco de Zurburan, which are housed in the Bishop of Durham’s residence Auckland Castle, would go ahead, even though its biggest investment fund was performing “magnificently”.

First church states commissioner Andreas Whittam Smith said the fund had achieved an average return of 10pc a year over the past 10 years in spite of the worst stock market collapse in years. Church Commissioners have said they were “sympathetic” to the Zurburan collection remaining in the North-East, and the retiring Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull, has publicly backed a campaign for them to stay.

One likely destination could be 15 miles from their current home, at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.