New artwork for to mark Witham Hall refurbishment

AN artist is to start work on a new piece of public art for Witham Hall after her idea was selected from more than 120 designs.

Judy Caplin, of Mickleton, was chosen to create the piece of art to mark the opening of the iconic Barnard Castle landmark later this year.

Officials at Witham Hall wanted the commission to be relevant to Henry Witham and his interests so Mrs Caplin used his love of fossils as her inspiration.

“He was a botanist,” she said. “He was interested in fossils and he wrote a book about it. There were lots of illustrations of the fossils and that is where I got my ideas from.”

Witham Hall, in Barnard Castle town centre, is undergoing a £3m rebuilding and refurbishment scheme. The project is expected to be completed by the summer.

The piece of public art will hang prominently and will be made up of about 400 individually-produced porcelain tiles, using Teesdale fossil vegetation.

Mrs Caplin is currently testing out some ideas for the project and hopes to start work on her design later this month.

She will also be working with local primary school children.

“It was lovely when I found out,” she said. “It will be really nice to have something hanging there.”

Funding for the refurbishment of Witham Hall has been secured from a number of sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Its transformation is part of Barnard Castle Vision's master plan to boost the town by connecting the main attractions to increase footfall and spending.

The town library will be refurbished with office space for Durham County Council and a customer access point and linked to Witham Hall.

A new community engagement officer will be recruited to deliver educational and community activities and a team of around 50 volunteers will help.

Exhibitions, workshops, talks and guided tours will encourage local people and visitors to learn about the hall's heritage, the town and its people.

Opened in 1846, the hall was originally a dispensary for the sick then a Mechanics Institute educating the poor.

In the 1860s, it was extended to include a music hall and has since served as a community venue for social events, a cinema, a town council office and a library.

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