The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle
DL12 8NP




01833 690606


01833 637163

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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 10.00 - 5.00

Closed only 25 & 26 Dec & 1 Jan

Admission charges

Adults: £9.50
Concessions (Disabled, over 60s, students, unwaged): £8.50, 6 month pass £14.00, students £5.50
Under 16s, disabled carers, tour guides and accompanying coach drivers: FREE
Groups of 12 or more receive a discount on the normal admission price.
Photography and Video Permit: £3.00
FREE parking and admission to grounds

Proof of status is required for free and discounted tickets.


  • 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.

Dolls, Bears, Robots

  • 29 June 2013 — 24 July 2015 *on now

Appealing to families, this extension to the current toy display creates a specific Children's Room in the Museum's Streatlam Galleries. More dolls and teddy bears from the collection are on show, together with long term loans of toys from our partner museum, Beamish. Also included is a display of vintage robots and mechanical toys

Suitable for

  • Any age

Van Dyck's Portrait of Olivia Porter, as revealed on BBC Culture Show

  • 24 July 2013 — 24 July 2014 *on now

See this remarkable painting, recently authenticated as a genuine Van Dyck on the BBC's flagship arts programme The Culture Show, in the splendour of the museum’s newly refurbished painting galleries

Suitable for

  • Any age
Henry Poole

Henry Poole & Co. Founder of Savile RowThe Art of Bespoke Tailoring and Wool Cloth

  • 21 September 2013 — 11 May 2014 *on now

An exhibition to celebrate the craft of bespoke tailoring by Savile Row family, Henry Poole & Co. Established in 1806, they launched Savile Row, now the most famous tailoring street in the world. Their famous clientele included Emperor Napoleon III and Winston Churchill and they have held the Royal Warrant for state livery since Queen Victoria. The company is also famous for creating the short dinner jacket which became known as the tuxedo.

Suitable for



Gavin Turk – Neons

  • 25 January — 25 April 2014 *on now

One of the most respected artists who came to prominence in the wave of interest in the British Art scene of the early 1990’s, collectively known as the YBA’s.

His notoriety came early in his career when he was refused a degree from the Royal College for exhibiting a single work Cave, purchased by Charles Saatchi, who later included Turk in the infamous ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy and other venues. Initial discussions between the artist and curator have settled upon the idea
of an exhibition of the artist’s work in neon, both existing and commissioned.


Manet – The Execution of Maximilian

Manet – The Execution of Maximilian

  • 22 March — 18 May 2014 *on now

Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian comes to The Bowes Museum as the first painting in the three-year Masterpiece Tour; part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible.


All exhibitions & displays are included in the cost of admission



The Pitmen Painters

Shafts of Light: Mining Art in the Great Northern Coalfield

  • 17 May — 21 September 2014

A salute to a once essential and powerful workforce, the exhibition illustrates the working environment of coal miners via their own interpretation of working life in and around the North East. Through their eyes we experience the hard working conditions and the social climate of the time.


All exhibitions & displays are included in the cost of admission.



Julian Opie: Collected Works

  • 4 October 2014 — 5 January 2015

Julian Opie Collected Works continues a series of exhibitions at the Holburne
exploring artists and their collections.

One of this country’s most important and successful contemporary artists this will be Opie’s first one person exhibition in the UK for over 10 years. Uniquely it will bring together his own works – including new and unseen works – with pieces from his private art collection and explore the links and resonances between the two.

The exhibition, which will be shown at the Holburne before travelling to The Bowes Museum, will also include large scale external sculpture in the gardens of the two
museums and be accompanied by a publication including an interview with the artist.


Dates TBC.

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.
Buttons and beads

Demonstration: Savile Row

  • 2 May 2014 1-4pm

Enjoy a demonstration by tailoring staff to complement the current exhibition Henry Poole and Co, Founder of Savile Row, The Art of Bespoke Tailoring and Wool Cloth.

Events are included in the admission charge unless otherwise stated.

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly


Normal Admission Charges Apply.

Restores carding machine

Talk: The Art of Bespoke Tailoring and Wool Cloth

  • 24 April 2014 2:30-3pm

Join one of the curators for an introduction to the current exhibition Henry Poole & Co. Founder of Savile Row, The Art of Bespoke Tailoring and Wool Cloth.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events are included in the admission charge unless otherwise stated.


Needlelace Weekend

  • 25 — 27 April 2014
  • 26 April 2014 10am-7pm
  • 27 April 2014 10am-3pm

Enjoy an exclusive viewing of items from the prestigious Blackborne Lace Collection with one of the Museum’s curators, participate in stitching sessions on needlelace techniques, take a guided tour to learn about the Museum and its founders, and socialise with other lacemakers.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17
  • Not suitable for children


£175.00 per delegate. Booking required on 01833 690606 (one evening meal included). Transport to & from Darlington station can be arranged on request.



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