Roper House is located at 10 Market Place, Bishop Auckland, 20 minutes away from Durham by car. It is a heritage house of national significance. This is not only reflected by its statutory designation as a Grade II listed building, but also by its deeper heritage values. Roper House is the seat of the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art at Durham University.
Most of the building’s significance derives from its context and setting. It forms an important part of the streetscape at the heart of the Bishop Auckland Conservation Area, located on the Market Place at the threshold of the Castle Park, and is part of the highly significant relationship between the Market Place and Auckland Castle. The primary evidential value of the site lies in the fact that it potentially holds below-ground archaeology of national significance, as suggested by recent findings nearby.
As one of the remaining 18th-century buildings, having survived over 200 years as the town has developed and changed, Roper House has considerable historical value showcasing a typical house built by wealthy individuals in the late 18th-century. Externally, Roper House maintains its original features, in keeping with the aesthetic appearance of much of the Market Place. Internally, in 2018, refurbishment of Roper House was undertaken on behalf of The Auckland Project by Bishop Auckland-based T. Manners & Sons, prior to the building being leased and occupied by Durham University.
Roper House sits on a thin rectangular plot, located on the corner of the Market Place and Castle Chare. The principal, north elevation faces onto the Market Place while Castle Chare runs alongside the east elevation of the building. To the rear, the A689 passes along the south of the building. The late 18th-century house consists of two storeys plus a basement and attic. A later linear addition runs on a north-south axis to form a rough L-shape around a yard to the rear where modern brick extensions have been added.
The front (north) elevation consists of coursed, squared sandstone with an ashlar plinth, quoins and dressings. It is made up of three bays; the central door has a plain surround and a pointed hood. On either side are tripartite sash windows with plain stone surrounds; the window to the right is currently covered in Perspex, and the lower half of the left window is boarded up. Running below the first-floor window surrounds is a sill band; the roof has a dormer window over the right bay and is currently boarded up.
The east elevation consists of a large gable end with a small opening to the stairwell between the basement and ground floor level, a twelve-pane sash between the ground and first floor, an attic window and a stone and ashlar chimney. This steps down to a section with two large four-pane sashes; the lower half of the 1st-floor window is currently boarded up. The elevation steps down to show a boarded-up entrance at basement level, an irregular window pattern on the first floor and three large first-floor windows. The south end of the building is clad in ivy and is punctuated by a bay window on the first floor. There is a tarmac yard to the rear of the building with a modern brick strong room extension with a partially collapsed corrugated iron roof and another modern brick lean-to extension.
The interior has seen significant alteration since the building was converted into offices in the 20th century. On the ground floor, the original plan form remains largely intact with a few notable modern additions. A brick strong room has been added and a lean-to extension with brick garden walls has also been introduced, which provides access to the rear of the building and a second stairwell. Modern doors such as a timber and glass lobby door inside the front door entrance and a modern timber and glass screen door to the base of the first stairwell, have been introduced. Further modern features introduced when converted into office space, include a sliding glass hatch in the principal front room and a large modern timber and glass partition in the room opposite the strong room. The first floor can be reached by either the front stairwell or the second stairwell towards the rear of the building. The top floor consists of the two attic rooms at the front of the house, one of which has a dormer window, the other a boarded up window on the east elevation and small fireplace.
The Market Place forms the heart of the Bishop Auckland town centre. It runs from Auckland Castle to the east along to Bondgate in the west. The Market Place is prominently situated on the projecting plateau of land that geographically defines Bishop Auckland and, although this is not obvious within the Market Place, its topographical elevation and prominence are clear when observed from the surrounding landscape and road network.
The Market Place is shaped by multiple heritage assets, comprising both listed and non-listed buildings that contribute to the special interest of the Conservation Area, and add depth and richness on the approach to Auckland Castle. Key listed buildings include a Grade II* Town Hall and the Grade II Church of St Anne. The importance and quality of the below-ground archaeology is also perceived to be high. Roper House forms part of the south side of the Market Place, which is lined by mostly commercial properties. These vary in their appearance and comprise a row of 18th-and 19th-century brick, stone and rendered buildings, constructed in a variety of styles, from Georgian to Gothic Revival and Neo-Classical. The terraced buildings have pitched roofs, with the exception of the hipped roof and dormers on a former Barclay's Bank building. Most importantly, the Market Place has a strong relationship to Auckland Castle. It now forms the primary approach to the Castle Park.