Barnard Castle

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Barnard Castle is an historic town in Teesdale, County Durham, England. It is named after the castle around which it grew up. It sits on the north side of the River Tees, opposite Startforth, 42 miles (68 km) south southwest of Newcastle upon Tyne, 38 miles (61 km) south southwest of Sunderland, 30 miles (48 km) west of Middlesbrough and 21 miles (34 km) southwest of the county town of Durham. Bowes Museum is located in the town. Nearby towns include Bishop Auckland north-east, Darlington to the east and Richmond to the south-east.

The castle was founded by the Normans shortly after the conquest, but enjoyed its heyday under Bernard de Bailliol during the latter half of the 12th century. The castle passed into the hands of the Balliol family (of which the Scottish king, John Balliol, was the most important member) and then into the possession of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. King Richard III inherited it through his wife, Anne Neville, but it fell into ruins in the century after his death.

The remains of the castle are a Grade 1 listed building, whilst the chapel in the outer ward is Grade II* listed. Both sets of remains are now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.

Walter Scott frequently visited his friend John Sawrey Morritt at Rokeby Hall and was fond of exploring Teesdale. He begins his epic poem Rokeby (1813) with a man standing on guard on the round tower of the Barnard Castle fortress.

Charles Dickens and his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) stayed at the King’s Head in Barnard Castle while researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby in the winter of 1837-38. He is said to have entered William Humphrey’s clock-maker’s shop, then opposite the hotel, and enquired who had made a certain remarkable clock. William replied that his boy Humphrey had done it. This seems to have prompted Dickens to choose the title “Master Humphrey’s Clock” for his new weekly, in whichThe Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge appeared.

William Wordsworth, Daniel Defoe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hilaire Belloc, Bill Bryson and the artist J M W Turner have also visited the town.

The Bowes Museum, housed in a chateau-like building, was founded by John Bowes and his wife and is of national status. It contains an El Greco, paintings by Goya, Canaletto, Boucher, Fragonard and a collection of decorative art. A great attraction is the 18th century silver swan automation, which periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch and swallow a fish.

John Bowes lived at nearby Streatlam Castle (now demolished). His Streatlam stud never had more than ten breeding mares at one time, but produced no fewer than four Derby winners in twenty years. The last of these, “West Australian”, was the first racehorse to win the Triple Crown (1853).

Although never a big manufacturing centre, in the 18th century industry centred around hand loom wool weaving, and in the early 19th century the principal industry was spinning and the manufacture of shoe thread.

Barnard Castle is for all purposes (historic, ceremonial and administrative) located in County Durham.

Barnard Castle was the administrative centre of the former Teesdale district of County Durham. The town is now administered by Durham County Council Unitary Authority. It is part of the Bishop Auckland parliamentary constituency, which as of 2010 is represented in parliament by Helen Goodman (Labour). It is in the North East England region, which serves as a constituency for the European Parliament.

The local police force is Durham Constabulary. The town is the base for the Barnard Castle division, which covers 300 square miles (780 km2). This division is within the force’s south area.

The most important employer in Barnard Castle is GlaxoSmithKline which has a large pharmaceutical manufacturing plant on the outskirts of the town which employs around 1000 people. The number of people employed could potentially be doubled if the site is chosen as the site of a new bio-pharmaceutical plant. GSK has invested over £80 million into the plant since 2006, and the company plans to spend a further £25 million in 2011 upgrading and investing in buildings and machinery.

Barnard Castle is located in a picturesque area of Teesdale and tourism is important to the local economy. Several holiday parks are located nearby including a Camping and Caravanning Club site and a new site for the Caravan Club. The town has a number of antique shops and an antique centre which attracts antique buyers from all around the world. The High Street has many independent shops.

Barnard Castle has road connections to Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor and central County Durham via the A688 and Darlington and Teesside by the A67. Barnard Castle is also located 4 miles (6.4 km) from the A66 with access to both the M6 to the west and the A1(M) to the east. The B6278 also connects Barnard Castle with Middleton-in-Teesdale.

From 1861 to 1964 the town was served by Barnard Castle railway station. Today rail access is via Bishop Auckland, 15 miles (25 km) or Darlington, 16 miles (26 km).

The annual live music festival, organised by Teesdale Community Resources in conjunction with the Barnard Castle Meet Committee, runs over the Whit weekend alongside the many other ‘Meet’ activities. It is a three-day event with out-of-town bands playing on the Saturday and local bands & up and coming TCR bands playing on the Sunday and Monday. It is a family friendly event and entrance is totally free.

The Barnard Castle Meet is an annual carnival festival held on the second bank holiday weekend in May, the schools summer half term week. The Meet, as it is known locally, has grown from the North East Cyclists Meet dating back to 1885 and since the early 1900s the town has staged a carnival and grand procession through the town centre on the bank holiday Monday. The weekend is now probably the largest event in the Barnard Castle and Teesdale calendar. There are around twenty separate events that the Meet Committee asserts ‘reach every corner of the community’. In recent years, with the R ‘n’ B festival no longer in the Meet Weekend programme, the Committee has staged its own music event showcasing local and national talent on the Sunday and Monday, with all technical and musical support from Teesdale Community Resources (TCR). The 2010 Meet, the largest for several years, began with the Crowning of the Meet Queen on 29 May.

The Barnard Castle Band, founded in 1860, is a brass band based in the town, well known outside the area as a result of the march Barnard Castle by Goff Richards.

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