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The local area guide to living in Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle, named after the fortification it grew up around, is a historic market town in County Durham, in the North East of England. A relatively small town, it is nevertheless an attractive tourist destination thanks to its beautiful architecture.

The castle was built by the Norman Lord Bernard I de Balliol in the late 12th century. It passed through his family and was eventually inherited by King Richard III. After his death in the Wars of the Roses, the castle began to fall into disrepair. Today, the castle is a Grade I listed building, fully open to the public, and is managed by English Heritage. Several authors and poets have visited and found inspiration in the town and at the castle, including Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth.

Barnard Castle is also home to the Bowes Museum, which was put in place by John Bowes and has what is considered the finest collection of European decorative art in the North of England. It famously contains a fascinating 18th century automaton - a silver swan, which preens itself and catches fish.

Barnard Castle has never been a big industrial town, and was never dominated by any one industry, though woolen cloth making and shoe manufacturing were both prominent. Today, GlaxoSmithKline is a major employer but the town derives a lot of its wealth from tourism.

Information about the local residents

Barnard Castle is a small town, with a population of just under 5,500 according to the 2011 census.

The area has a mean age a little over the national average at 41, and a median age of 42. Around 18% of the population are of pensionable age, while around 20% are under 18. The town does not have much of an immigrant population - 96.8% of people were born in the UK, a further 0.2% in the Republic of Ireland, 1.3% from elsewhere in the EU and 1.8% from outside the EU.

Unemployment in the region is a little higher than average, with 4.2% claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, while a total of 18.3% claim some form of benefit which compares to 13.5% for the rest of England. In terms of social grade, judged by the occupation of a household's main earner, just 16.3% of people belong to grade AB. 28.4% are in C1, and more than 55% are in the lowest grades of C2 and DE.

This may be related to the education rates, which are a little lower than the national rates. 27.5% of people in County Durham have no formal qualifications, which compares to 22.5% for England as a whole, and just 21.5% of people have achieved Level 4 qualifications or higher.

Home ownership in the area is a little higher than average. 65% of homes are owner occupied, and just 11.4% are privately rented. 20% are used as some form of social housing, whether through the council or a housing association.

Sources: 2011 Census, Department for Work and Pensions

Nearby schools

There are three schools in Barnard Castle.

Barnard Castle School is an independent school. It is co-educational and takes pupils up to the age of 18. It has a very good sporting pedigree, especially in rugby union and boasts international players Rob Andrew, Rory and Tony Underwood and Matthew Tait as alumni.

Teesdale school, a comprehensive, is also nearby and takes pupils from the age of 11 to 18. Green Lane School is the local primary, and is not far from Teesdale School.

Getting around

Barnard Castle has good connections for motorists - the A688 links to Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor and the centre of the county. The A67 connects to Middlesbrough and Darlington.

Rail access is a little more limited - the station closed during the Beeching Closures, so the nearest railway stations are at Bishop Auckland and Darlington.

Local shops

Barnard Castle is particularly well known for its antique shops. There are several, and they are of particularly high quality - antique buyers from around the globe travel to the town for this reason.

Beyond that, the high street has some very good independent stores, and the town has some excellent restaurants and pubs scattered throughout its streets.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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