The Bowes Museum

Image of 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
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
Image from the Turkish Tulips exhibition at The Bowes Museum

Turkish Tulips

  • 16 August — 5 November 2017 *on now

The Bowes Museum continues its 125th anniversary celebrations, with two extraordinary exhibitions running simultaneously this summer for the young and the young-at-heart.

Leading contemporary artist Gavin Turk and The House of Fairy Tales, the imaginative children’s arts charity, inspire symbolic stories of horticulture in these captivating shows.

Turkish Tulips is an exhibition woven through the decorative halls of The Bowes Museum as an exquisite art adventure. It presents new works by contemporary artist Gavin Turk, in collaboration with a host of renowned contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Sir Peter Blake, Fiona Banner, Mat Collishaw, Adam Dant and Yinka Shonibare MBE. Interwoven amongst The Bowes Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition delves into the complex and paradoxical story of tulips as the artists mine the rich vein of secrets behind this iconic bloom, provoking new perspectives of The Bowes Museum’s collection. The exhibition visits The Bowes Museum on a grand tour of the museums of Europe and the Middle East, recently arriving from Amsterdam – the symbolic home of the tulip.

“The exhibition provokes curiosity - challenging us to see things in a new light – the familiar becomes unfamiliar as the tulip’s important role in history is presented through tales of romance, beauty, obsession, inequality and extravagance as well as scientific discoveries through the enlightenment,” explained Dr Howard Coutts, the Museum’s Keeper of Ceramics, and curator of the exhibition.

Gavin Turk and The House of Fairy Tales were drawn to The Bowes Museum as an important site for this ambitious show because of its historic relationship with the aesthetic arts of Europe and its influences from the East. The extraordinary variety of floral designs with hidden tulips woven through the patterns of furniture, ceramics, silver and paintings – revealing the symbolic power of this humble flower.

Gavin Turk articulated his reason for choosing the museum, “I love the fact that Joséphine and John Bowes travelled Europe gathering cultural artefacts, as the traders did with tulip bulbs hundreds of years before. As a Turk by name, the Turkish origins of these iconic flowers make them all the more playful and relevant”.

This is not the first time this observation has been made about the Bowes collection. Without realising it, one of founder Joséphine Bowes’ protégés, the young French botanist and glass maker Emile Gallé, wrote the same thing to her more than 100 years before . . . ‘As an ardent botanist, I hunt only plants. It is the passion that competes in my life with that, perhaps less happy, of ceramics; when I pick a flower, I pick a model and an idea. Sometimes, when I am turning the pages of my herbarium I seem to see only vases, and perhaps one day, when I visit your beautiful faience collection I will think it is a collection of marvellous plants . . .’

The Bowes Museum’s complementary exhibition - The Clockwork Garden – is a bewitching show promising a magical experience for all ages from The House of Fairy Tales. Flying in from a planet far away, a strange mechanical seed has landed in our main exhibition gallery which will be filled with a beautiful, interactive exhibition. The seed needs to learn the secrets that make gardens full of life and beauty, so it can take them back to its own planet, which has no gardens.

Carrying on the theme, in the Museum’s more Earthly gardens and grounds there’ll be a chance to probe further into the magical story through A Clockwork Garden Adventure Trail. Follow a curious, illustrated map to find tendrils of the mechanical seed, completing tasks and challenges and solving clues left by the wondrous characters of the ‘Museum’s founders’, both historical and fictional.

The exhibitions programme is complemented by a wide range of events, full details of which can be found at or by calling 01833 690606. The Bowes Museum is open daily from 10am – 5pm.

The Bowes Museum is delighted that Darlington Building Society is our main exhibition partner in this summer’s programme featuring Turkish Tulips and The Clockwork Garden.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Annual adult pass £14, concs £12; annual family pass £30 (2 adults & up to 4 young people aged 5-17; annual family pass £16 (1 adult & up to 4 young people as above); Student day entry £6; Under 18 day entry £5 (u14 must be accompanied by an adult); Under 5 free; Carers free


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.