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 open!


The Bowes Museum is looking forward to welcoming you!

You are able to enjoy the hugely popular Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection, Pre-Raphaelite Knights: Reinventing the Medieval World and blimey! Lucretia exhibitions as well as an exciting programme of family workshops throughout the summer holidays.

The health and well-being of our visitors, staff and volunteers are our priority, and in line with the latest Government guidance on COVID-19 the changes we have made will help you to feel confident, safe and enjoy your visit.

Entry to the Museum has to be booked before you visit here or by telephoning us on 01833 690606. Details about what to expect when you visit are available when you click here.