The Bowes Museum

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Founded over 100 years ago, by John and Joséphine Bowes, the magnificent building contains the greatest collection of European fine and decorative arts in the North of England, alongside an eclectic programme of exhibitions and events.

Venue Type:

Museum, Gallery, Garden, parklands or rural site, Library

Opening hours

Open daily 1000-1700
Closed only 25,26 Dec, 1 Jan

Admission charges

Adult annual pass £14.00 concs £12.00
Annual family pass (2 adults & up to 4 young people aged 5-17 years) £30.00
Annual family pass (1 adult & up to 4 young people aged 5-17 years)) £16.00
Student, day entry, £6.00 (on production of Student Card)
Free entry to holders of the Great British Heritage Pass; National Art Pass (on production of membership card)
Free entry to the Friends of The Bowes Museum.
Free entry to Accompanying Carers


  • Museums Association
  • International Council of Museums
  • English Heritage
Getting there

14 miles west of the Scotch Corner A1/A66 interchange.

Additional info

The Museum's reference library is staffed by the Friends of The Bowes Museum. It is open by appointment only. Please ring for details.

The Friends of The Bowes Museum offer free guided tours of the galleries. For more information, or to book your place please contact us.

The entire collection of the Bowes Museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

This collection contains paintings, ceramics, items of woodwork, objects d’art and textiles. Before Josephine’s death in 1874, John Bowes and his French wife had amassed some 15,000 objects of all types of European fine and decorative arts from the period 1400-1870. The bills for this collecting activity survive in the museum’s archive. Acquisitions made more recently such as the Enid Goldblatt collection of porcelain, have reinforced the continental feel of the museum.

The Museum holds an outstanding collection of European fine and decorative arts of the period 1400-1875, specialising in French and Spanish paintings. There is an extensive collection of English furniture, European ceramics and textiles, as well as archaeological material and archives from County Durham and social history from Teesdale.

Items from this collection

Collection details

Weapons and War, Toys and Hobbies, Social History, Religion, Photography, Personalities, Natural Sciences, Music, Literature, Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art, Costume and Textiles, Coins and Medals, Archives, Archaeology

Key artists and exhibits

  • Silver Swan
  • James Cox
  • Pease Train
  • Clockwork Toys
  • Canaletto
  • El Greco
  • Goya
  • Tiepolo
  • Boucher
  • Revolving Band Clock
  • Giordano
  • Turner
  • Japanese Tiger
  • Portrait of Josephine Bowes
  • Portrait of John Bowes
  • Paintings by Josephine Bowes
  • Designated Collection
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Queen Victoria in Paris

  • 24 March — 24 June 2018 *on now

The Bowes Museum is delighted to announce an exhibition of watercolours, opening in spring 2018, generously loaned by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.

The Bowes Museum is one of only four venues in the UK – and the only one in the North of England - to stage Queen Victoria in Paris, an exhibition of watercolours commissioned by the monarch as a souvenir of her momentous 10-day state visit to Paris in August 1855. The paintings provide both a fascinating record and a lasting legacy of the opulence, pomp and pageantry surrounding the trip.

The visit by the royal party, which included Prince Albert and the couple’s two eldest children, Victoria and Albert Edward (later King Edward VII), marked a turning point in Anglo-French relations, strained since the defeat of Napoleon I at Waterloo 40 years earlier.

The thaw began when Bonaparte’s nephew, the self appointed Napoleon III, and his wife the Empress Eugénie, keen to reconcile France with Britain, visited the Queen at Windsor Castle in the spring of 1855 at the suggestion of Prince Albert. Initially mistrustful, Victoria was soon captivated, and delighted to accept the Emperor’s reciprocal invitation to visit Paris in August of that year.

The Paris of 1855 was a hugely exciting place to be, even for a queen. Queen Victoria visited during the Exposition Universelle, the international exhibition of fine arts and industry – closely modelled on her husband’s Great Exhibition staged at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851.

The visit of the ‘Reine de l’Angleterre’ was met with much anticipation in France; the Queen greeted by cheering crowds as she embarked on a packed schedule of ceremonial and cultural engagements, interspersed with entertainments laid on in her honour.

This period in history coincides with the time when John and Joséphine Bowes were living in Paris and forming the collection that would become The Bowes Museum, so they would no doubt have attended some of the festivities.

An evening gala performance at the Opéra saw the royal party receive a ‘hearty reception’’, with God save the Queen ‘sung splendidly, amidst enthusiastic cheers.’

As Victoria recalled in her journal . . .

‘. . . another most splendid day. Most truly do the Heavens favour & smile upon our visit & upon this happy alliance. It was the same when the Emperor and Empress came to us in April.’

As well as being politically significant, the visit was personally very exciting for Victoria, delighted at completing a carriage tour of Paris incognito wearing a black veil over her face. She recorded the 'never to be forgotten week' rapturously in her diary, boasting of 'the closest alliance which has almost ever existed between two great, independent nations'.

As a passionate collector of watercolours since the early 1850s, those featured in the exhibition were either commissioned by the Queen or presented as gifts by the artists as a souvenir of her visit. Queen Victoria was herself a keen watercolourist, and three of her own works made during the Paris tour are included in the exhibition, which opens on 24 March 2018, running until 24 June.

Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to share with our visitors these beautifully preserved watercolours, generously loaned by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.”

The exhibition will be complemented by a programme of events, which will be rolled out on the Museum’s website at, beginning with the following by Rosie Razzall, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection Trust:

Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and the Events of 1855
Date 15 May Time 2.30pm
Join Rosie Razzall, Curator of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust to learn more about Queen Victoria's historic state visit in Paris in 1855; a remarkable moment in Anglo-French relations. The events of this ten-day tour – spectacular balls, firework displays and cheering crowds as well as the quieter moments – are brought to life through discussion of the watercolours on display in the fascinating exhibition Queen Victoria in Paris.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Annual adult pass £14.00 concs £12.00); Family annual pass £30.00 (2 adults & up to 4 young people aged 5-17); Family annual pass £16.00 (1 adult & up to 4 young people aged 5-17); Student day entry £6.00; Under 18 day entry £5.00 (under 14s must be accompanied by an adult); Under 5s free; Carers free. Call 01833 690606.


Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

After School Club

The Bowes Museum’s After School Club is for children aged 7-12 years and meets at 15.45 every Wednesday during term time. They explore different parts of the Museum’s amazing collections through hands-on arts activities with recent topics including optical art experiments, Art Nouveau glass inspired vessels and even a performance of a Mummer’s Play.
Being a member of the After School Club means that you get to decide on the project focus – be it clay containers, printing patterns or Modroc models, everyone is given the opportunity to vote for their favourite choice. It’s a great way to meet new friends, learn new skills and get your creative juices flowing!

How to obtain

If you are interested in joining The Bowes Museum’s After School Club, please contact the Education Team on 01833 694602,

Portraits and Portraiture

How to obtain

Visit The Museums Network website which includes The Bowes Museum, for downloadable resources and games.

The Bowes

Getting there

14 miles west of the Scotch Corner A1/A66 interchange.

The Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle
DL12 8NP





01833 690606

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.