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Jonathan Ruffer – Chairman, Auckland Castle Trust, Eleven Arches and Ruffer LLP

Jonathan grew up in North Yorkshire, read English at Cambridge, trained as a barrister, and then moved into the investment world, setting up Ruffer LLP in 1994. In 2012, he purchased Jacob and his twelve sons, a series of paintings by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán, as well as 900 year-old Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, where they have been housed for more than 250 years. Determined to keep the paintings for the people of the North East and to allow them access to the Castle, which had previously served as a private palace for the Prince Bishops of Durham, Jonathan established The Auckland Castle Trust. The charity is now working to transform Auckland Castle into an arts, faith and heritage destination of international significance. This includes a £17m restoration of the Castle itself, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as a reimagining of its 17th Century Walled Garden and the creation of various new venues, including a Spanish Gallery, Mining Art Gallery and Faith Museum. This represents a total investment of more than £70m. An additional £35m is being invested by Auckland Castle Trust’s sister charity, Eleven Arches, which is responsible for open air spectacular, Kynren – an epic tale of England. Together, it is hoped that these charities will help to boost visitor numbers, create opportunities for employment and skills development and serve as a catalyst for the revitalisation of Bishop Auckland.

Jane Ruffer – Chair of the Executive Committee, Auckland Castle Trust

Jane Ruffer is married to Jonathan and, along with being a wife, mum, daughter and dog walker has been a doctor, a lecturer and a school governor, has run a national helpline and has been a trustee of various charities and a hospice. Although she didn’t enjoy school or medical school very much, Jane is still a fan of lifelong learning and links it to two very important decisions in her life – changing medical speciality and undertaking a course in Art History – both of which proved to be life changing and life enhancing. As Chair of Auckland Castle Trust’s Executive Committee, Jane is now putting her Art History studies to practical use in a project to restore a historic Bishop’s Palace and garden and develop specialist art galleries to attract visitors and provide an accessible resource for the local community. She is hopeful that this regeneration of the built environment, potential visitor income and community engagement will have a lasting and positive effect for the people of Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area.

Rebecca Thompson FCIOB

Rebecca Thompson launched 'Thompson Heritage Consultancy Ltd' in the summer of 2016. After 7 years as the Superintendent of Works for the Chapter of York, directing the maintenance, restoration and conservation of York Minster and the precinct properties, Rebecca covered a maternity leave for the Chapter Steward. It was there that she enhanced her strategic and agile thinking. Combining heritage construction expertise with the knowledge and experience gained from a role as Chief Executive Rebecca said that if felt like a natural progression to set up a company allowing organisations to utilise these skills on a consultancy basis. Rebecca is a Fellow and President of the Chartered Institute of Building and sits on the CIOB Faculty for Maintenance, Adaptation, Restoration and Conservation (MARC).

Rebecca is a member of the York Consortium for Conservation and Craftsmanship supporting and enhancing the training and qualifications for heritage craft skills. Rebecca is also a member of the ASCHB; Association for Studies in the Conservation of Historic Buildings, past Master of the York Guild of Building and member SPAB; Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, IHBC Affiliate; Institute for Historic Building Conservation and York Civic Trust.

Rebecca teaches part time to HNC students at York College. Rebecca has a keen interest in heritage training, the skills and apprenticeships for construction and the heritage sector, mentoring young people and especially encouraging diversity in the construction industry.

Carol Pyrah is a career heritage professional working for Historic England (the government advisory service that champions historic places).  Historic England was created on the split of English Heritage into two organisations on 1 April 2015.  With a First Class degree in Archaeology from the University of York, Carol went on to work in the charity sector for the Council for British Archaeology.  Since 1997 she has worked for English Heritage (now Historic England) and became regional director for the North East in 2004.    Most recently she spent a year as National Planning & Conservation Director, running a department of 300 specialist staff and a budget of £32M providing advice on changes affecting the historic environment in the planning system, grants and expertise to save Heritage at Risk, and support for historic places.  During this year she was part of the senior team that led the transition to Historic England.  She is a member of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England.

Geoff Brown is a Project Management Area Manager with an engineering services background. Through Turner & Townsend he has been involved with Auckland Castle Trust since autumn 2015 and is currently acting as Project Manager and Contract Administrator for the high profile refurbishment, extension and fit out of the Grade I Listed Auckland Castle, the historic home of the Bishop of Durham. Before joining this project, Geoff worked across a diverse range of developments, many within the Heritage and Arts Sector, including Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition (Durham), Royal Museum (Edinburgh), Great North Museum (Newcastle upon Tyne), The Bowes Musuem (Barnard Castle) and MIMA (Middlesbrough).