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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
PoW camp becomes tourist attraction
Harperley PoW camp mural
One of the murals painted by prisoners at Harperley PoW camp
A former prisoner of war camp in County Durham is to become the north-east of England's latest tourist attraction.

Harperley PoW camp, near Crook, was built in 1943 and has already become the first in the country to be declared a national monument.

Now husband and wife owners James and Lisa McCleod are to launching the site as a tourist destination in June.

The camp retains 85% of its buildings and has unique internal fittings, including stunning wall paintings done by former inmates.

In July 2002 Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone announced that Harperley was to become the first PoW camp to be declared a scheduled monument in the UK.

Mr McCleod said: "There were thousands of prisoners that came through the camp. Some were here two or three weeks, others were here for four years or more.

"The records we have show that there were upwards of 1,500 prisoners here at one time.

'Personal friends'

"Their day-to-day lives would revolve around working on local farms and in the forest nearby. They also had their own theatre where they performed little shows.

"Since we took over the camp we have managed to get in touch with about 35 ex-prisoners, many of whom have become personal friends."

Mrs McCleod added: "We have managed to trace some music that was written by one of the prisoners and we hope to recreate this to show visitors exactly what it was like in the theatre.

"We managed to trace the man in Germany who was in his nineties and he sent us a copy of the music he wrote for one of the prisoner shows."

The camp was originally built for Italian PoWs but soon housed 900 German prisoners identified as "low risk".

About 50 structures survive at Harperley, in varying states of preservation, although many internal fittings have been lost.

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