24 September 2014, The Tablet

Church commissioners accept £2 million offer for Binchester

The Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England's investment portfolio, have accepted a £2 million offer for land that includes an historic Roman fort near Auckland Castle, County Durham.

The Auckland Castle Trust – led by financier Jonathan Ruffer – initially had their offer for the site of Binchester Roman Fort rejected but it has now been accepted.

10 plots of land had been put up for sale by the Commissioners with Binchester on two of them. The trust was concerned that developers might have bought the plots meaning that access to the fort – which cannot be built on – would have been curtailed. Binchester is one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Britain.

In 2012 Mr Ruffer paid £19 million for Auckland Castle and a collection of Francisco de Zubaran paintings. The latter were being put up for sale by the commissioners. The trust is aiming to drive regeneration of Bishop Auckland and promote interest in the north-east.

Mr Ruffer, an evangelical Christian, told The Tablet that he was inspired to bankroll the development after going on an Ignatian retreat at St Beuno’s in North Wales four years ago.

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