The Bowes Museum

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.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

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

Admission charges

£9.50 Adults
£8.50 Concessions
£5.00 Students (on production of Student Card)
£14.00 6 Month Admission Pass*
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 Children (under 16)
Free entry to Accompanying Carers


  • Museums Association
  • International Council of Museums
  • English Heritage

Additional info

The Museum's reference library is staffed by the Friends of The Bowes Museum. It is open Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday 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 pre-book your place please contact us.

Handling Sessions may be arranged in advance.

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.

Echoes of Light

  • 30 July — 30 October 2016 *on now

The Northern Branch of the Guild of Glass Engravers is the foremost group of glass engravers in the North of England. The aim of the exhibition is to inform, educate and make the public aware of the art of glass engraving, by exhibiting glass engraved using modern engraving techniques, in the hope that it will arouse their interest in this wonderful medium.

Many exhibits on display will be for sale, and will comprise of different types of glass including cased coloured glass, vases, bowls, goblets, etc, covering a wide range of subject matter, using a variety of engraving methods, which includes surface, intaglio and stipple engraving.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Shelf Life – The Ornaments Are Talking To Me

  • 15 October 2016 — 12 February 2017 *on now

Mark Clarke’s latest piece of work, a collection of five painted, crowded shelves explores and examines the themes of life, love and loss.

‘When I was clearing out the family home in Northern Ireland following the death of my mother from Alzheimer’s I was intrigued to find how the positioning of her much loved, seemingly ephemeral mantelpiece ornaments appeared to display a puzzling sense of shared social hierarchy with the placement of each accommodating a definite power structure, theme and look.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease yet somehow through the fog of confusion, isolation, language and speech problems, loss of dignity, paranoia and diminished memory my mother was able to create a small recognisable world. Sufferers are often homebound during the middle and late stages of the disease and this is when she made her shelves. Trying to make sense of this thinking was the poignant source for this series of assemblages.’

The shelves created by Clarke are not a literal translation but a poetic interpretation of his mother’s homemade shrine
a tribute to vanished memory and impermanence that question our individual notions of value, worth and meaning. A melee of modern day memento mori layered with suggested nuance, heartfelt sentiment and some wit.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


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.

WW1 Workshops

  • 24 October 2016 10:30am-4pm
  • 26 October 2016 10:30am-4pm

Learn about the Museum’s WW1 project and see some real WW1 artefacts before making a remembrance poppy to take home in this drop in workshop. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.


Music of Martyrs – British Composers of WW1

  • 12 November 2016 From 2:30pm

Join Prof Jeremy Dibble for a talk on the profound effect the First World War had on musicians, exploring the range of emotions that their music captured in the face of heroism, horror and loss.

Suitable for

  • Any age


£3.00 Adults (or free with Museum admission), free for Friends of The Bowes Museum.


The Modish and the Militant

  • 10 December 2016 From 2:30pm

Join Lucie Whitmore to explore the links between conflict and women’s fashion. This talk will explore the experiences of women in wartime Britain, the changes in mourning dress, the growing practicality of women’s clothing and its balance between austerity and patriotism.

Suitable for

  • Any age


£3.00 Adults (or free with Museum admission), free for Friends of The Bowes Museum.

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

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.