The Bowes family legacy: The Bowes Museum

An image of The Bowes Museum

Did you know the Bowes legacy extends beyond Gibside?

The Bowes were one of the most ancient families of County Durham. Their ancestral home was Streatlam Castle, near Barnard Castle, but George Bowes chose to make Gibside the family estate. In 1767, Mary Eleanor Bowes married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, of Glamis Castle, Scotland. Following her father’s wishes, John Lyon adopted the Bowes family name, with some of their five children choosing to hyphenate their parent’s surnames and becoming the Bowes-Lyons.

Mary and John’s eldest son John Bowes, the 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, lived at Streatlam Castle where he fell in love and fathered a son, John Bowes, with local women Mary Milner.

It was John Bowes, Mary Eleanor’s grandson, who founded the Bowes Museum in 1811.

Bowes Museum, a Grade 1 listed French-style château in the picturesque market town of Barnard Castle, is one of the most important museums outside London and houses significant collections, including paintings by El Greco and Goya – the only works by these artists outside the national collections in London and Edinburgh.

If Mary Eleanor Bowes' story has captivated you, continue the journey at The Bowes Museum
An external shot of The Bowes Museum
If Mary Eleanor Bowes' story has captivated you, continue the journey at The Bowes Museum

Furniture, ceramics and sculpture are also well represented, and the collections have received Designated status from the government in recognition of their significance.

Among its treasures is a botanical cabinet, thought to have been commissioned by Mary Eleanor Bowes around 1780 to house her exotic plant collections.

The Bowes Museum is also home to the extraordinary Silver Swan, a lifesize 244-year-old musical automaton housed adjacent to a stunning gallery dedicated to the Museum’s silver and precious metal objects.