The Church of England, facing financial pressure, has signalled its readiness to sell historic bishops’ houses and palaces if they do not meet strict economic targets.
“Each house will be assessed to determine its development and income potential,” the Church Commissioners, the Anglican church’s main funding agency, said in a January report.
The commissioners want to find ways of using the buildings to generate income.
Auckland Palace, the 800-year-old seat of the bishop of Durham in northern England, is among several historic bishops’ houses that are already rented out for conferences and for social occasions. The palace also houses a set of valuable paintings by the 17th-century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran showing Jacob and his 12 sons, which the commissioners are warning they may sell.
The value of Auckland Palace, a former hunting lodge, is estimated at 2 million pounds ($4.8 million).
Only 13 of the bishops’ houses are classed as heritage properties.