The Bowes Museum > About > Our History > John & Joséphine Bowes

John & Joséphine Bowes


John and Joséphine Bowes founded The Bowes Museum. John, the son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore, was born at No 13 South Street, Chelsea, London. His mother was a commoner, Mary Millner, who caught the Earl's eye when she worked on his Teesdale estate and ended up living with the Earl to all intents as his wife for many years. The Earl married her just 16 hours before his death in an unsuccessful attempt to secure his son’s succession. Two very long court cases ensued, finally settling the Durham estates on John, but not recognising him as the legitimate heir to the Strathmore title.

John was educated at Eton and became a very successful businessman who invested heavily in the coal reserves on his land and bred four Derby winners. From 1847 he spent his time between France and England.

Joséphine Bowes was born in 1825. She was a French actress in the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris, owned by John Bowes between 1848 and 1852. She shared John’s love of the arts and they married in 1852.

The Bowes Museum is closed!


All of us at The Bowes Museum are really sad to announce that we have had to close until Wednesday 2 December in line with new national restrictions.

As a result, we have been forced to cancel events that were due to take place during this time. If you have a ticket for an event or entry to the Museum before this date, you will be contacted to arrange a refund or to make an alternative booking. All Christmas activities including the Christmas Market and Santa’s Grotto are expected to go ahead as planned.

Happily, we are still able to welcome walkers and cyclists to the Park and Gardens as usual, including the Playground area, and cars will be admitted between 10.00 and 4.00 daily.

We have so loved welcoming people into the building again, safely enjoying our displays, eating in Café Bowes and browsing in our shop, so please in the meantime keep safe and we hope to see you back again soon.

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