A UNIVERSITY student from Swaledale turned history detective as part of a project to celebrate the £3.2m renovation of Barnard Castle’s landmark Witham Hall.

Lara Bissicks has spent the last six weeks based at Radio Teesdale researching the history of the Grade II-listed building, which is due to reopen later this year after an extensive programme of refurbishments.

The 19-year-old Leeds Trinity University student’s efforts will form the basis of an hour-long programme on the Witham that will be aired by the radio station.

Her work will also be used as part of an exhibition entitled The Witham That Was, which aims to capture people’s memories of the hall. Lara, from Reeth, is studying a three-year course in English and writing, and said: “When I started, I knew nothing about the Witham. But I have enjoyed doing it and found it really interesting. Producing scripts has also been different to the sort of writing I am doing at university.

“My university work is to be read, whereas what I have been doing here is to be spoken.”

Although Lara’s placement has now ended, the search is continuing for people to come forward with their memories of the Witham. “Over the last 60 years, the hall has been used for and hosted a variety of activities, such as its time under the YMCA, the development of the library, various clubs and much more,” she said.

“Residents have many fond memories of the building – perhaps of visiting Santa’s grotto or attending a dance many moons ago.”