A TOWN’S iconic building which was once home to a well-loved family business has reopened its doors for an exhibition of art and photography.

The Grade II listed building on Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland, was until around 25 years ago, known as McIntyres – a family-run shoe and leather goods retailer which had been based there since the early 1920s.

The double-fronted premises has since been occupied by fashion retailers including Etam and Dorothy Perkins, who vacated the building last October.

Owner Wayne Baister, of Initial Group, agreed to a temporary letting to Durham County Council for use during the Bishop Auckland Food Festival in April while a new retail tenant was found.

And Durham County Councillor for Bishop Auckland Town, Joy Allen, was keen to help find other uses for the building, which was listed by Historic England in 1993.

The idea for the exhibition followed a meeting she had with Bishop Auckland College’s principal and chief executive Natalie Davison-Terranova.

The exhibition, called Regenerate, opened to the public today after a private showing to college staff, students and their families.

It will feature the work of students from the art and photography departments and run every day until Friday June 30, from 11am to 3pm weekdays and noon to 3pm on weekends.

Following the exhibition, the shop will then be used throughout July to promote courses starting at the college in September and staff will be available to offer advice and assist with course applications and enrolment.

Councillor Allen said: “Attracting new and innovative businesses to our high street is a key priority for me, so I was delighted that I could support the college and enable them to take up residency in these iconic premises.

“It’s a very fitting venue to showcase the talented students’ course work.”

“Bishop Auckland is quickly earning a reputation as a cultural centre that encourages and supports new and established creative businesses. I hope that some of the artists exhibiting here consider taking a stall on one of our weekly markets to sell their work and build up a customer base.”

Ms Davison-Terranova added: “This is a fantastic building with a fascinating history which so many local people have fond memories of.

“We are very grateful for the kind support of the county council, town council, Initial Group and Councillor Allen to enable us to hold the exhibition and offer advice and information here over the coming weeks on our huge range of courses starting in September.”