The Bowes Museum > Collection > Library & Archive > Reference Library

Reference Library

John Bowes intended the Museum to have a library from the very beginning, as there are bills for book purchases on Museum-related subjects among his papers. He had also inherited John Davidson’s library from his cousin Susan, and these two elements were the initial starting-point for the Museum’s library. Owen Scott, the Curator from 1884 until his death in 1922, added to the library holdings and several books bear his signature. The Museum Trustees, who took over responsibility for the Museum after John’s death in 1885, recognised the importance of having a reference library for the Museum and a local interest library, which included material relating to the Bowes family. They continued to purchase books and accept donations, largely through the recommendations of a Library Committee that functioned for several years.

The reference library holdings fall into four main categories:

  • Art reference books from the curatorial collections built up over many years from the Museum’s inception, covering a wide range of subjects and providing background knowledge to the collections held by the Museum and further afield. These are supplemented by runs of art periodicals, such as The Connoisseur, Apollo, The Burlington Magazine and The Art Newspaper, and several publications germane to the museum sector; sale catalogues from Christie’s, Sotheby’s and other dealers; general guides to museums and galleries in Britain and abroad; and guides to exhibitions with particular relevance to the Museum’s holdings.
  • Local interest books and pamphlets including history, archaeology, natural history, concentrating on Teesdale but also covering north Yorkshire, County Durham and parts of Cumbria and Northumberland, including an almost complete run of The Surtees Society publications. The library hold copies of The Teesdale Mercury from 1912 and continues to add to this run.
  • A general reference library based mainly on an early 19th century ‘gentleman’s library’ that was largely created by John Davidson of Ridley Hall, father-in-law of John Bowes’ cousin Susan who bequeathed it to John. This includes runs of periodicals, such as The Gentleman’s Magazine, The Spectator, Annual Register, The Lady’s Magazine, La Belle Assemblée, Sporting Magazine, Botanical Magazine, The Athenaeum, Naval Chronicle and World of Fashion. Later additions to the general reference holdings include magazines such as Country Life (from about 1950 to 2000), Punch and The Illustrated London News, and a significant section on archaeology including runs of Archaeologia, Archaeologia Aeliana, Durham Archaeological Journal and others.
  • John and Joséphine Bowes’ collection of French books including ladies’ magazines, travel guides, museum and gallery guides, theology, literature (including French translations of English novels and poetry) and art history and criticism.

The library also holds material that was mainly acquired as Museum objects:

  • Pamphlets relating to the French Revolution
  • Early works in several European languages printed from the late 15th century onwards
  • Small collection of illuminated late medieval manuscripts, mainly devotional works from northern France and Flanders
  • Fine and rare decorated book bindings of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Click here to view quick contents guide.

Opening Dates & Times

Wednesday 18 March 1.15 - 4.00 
 Thursday 19 March 10.15 - 4.00 
 Tuesday 24 March 10.15 - 4.00 
 Wednesday 25 March 10.15 - 1.00 
 Wednesday 1 April 1.15 - 4.00 
 Thursday 2 April 10.15 - 4.00 
 Tuesday 7 April 10.15 - 4.00 
 Wednesday 8 April 10.15 - 1.00 
 Wednesday 15 April  1.15 - 4.00
 Thursday 16 April  10.15 - 4.00
Tuesday 21 April 10.15 - 4.00
Wednesday 22 April 10.15 - 1.00
Wednesday 29 April 1.15 - 4.00
Thursday 30 April 10.15 - 4.00

Information about closing

19 March 2020

Unfortunately, due to the continuing development of the Coronavirus situation, The Bowes Museum is now closed until further notice. The health and wellbeing of both our customers and our staff is our priority.

Where events can be rescheduled we will endeavour to do so but please be assured that all ticket holders for cancelled events have options on refunds and can contact, however by not requesting a refund you would be making an exceptionally generous and much appreciated charitable donation to The Bowes Museum during these unprecedented times.

Whilst the Museum is closed, we will be working on other ways of sharing our story and collection via our digital platforms. Stay posted for online videos, conversations and more.

We thank you for your patience and your continued support for The Bowes Museum during this unpredictable time. We hope to come back to you with a reopening date shortly, for now, please stay safe and help protect the vulnerable.

25 March 2020

It is with great sadness that The Bowes Museum has taken the decision to temporarily close all gates to the grounds following a spate of vandalism around the parkland.

Since the Museum closed on Wednesday 18 March the benches in the story area have been damaged, the totem pole pulled over and broken, there have been attempts to pull out outdoor trail markers and branches have been pulled down and plants uprooted.

The Museum is working with the police to find the perpetrators of these actions. PC Michael Banks of Durham Constabulary said "This is a shameful piece of criminal damage within the grounds of a historical location in Barnard Castle anyone with information please contact Durham Constabulary quoting reference number DHM23032020-0189"

The Director of The Bowes Museum, Adrian Jenkins, said: "It is a shame that the actions of a few will have an impact on many but this closure also ties in with the latest government advice to stay at home to help restrict the spread of coronavirus and the Museum is following in the footsteps of other organisations who have closed gated parks and gardens.

There are tips from our education officer on the Museum's social media platforms for keeping the kids, and yourselves, entertained while in isolation and we'll be updating the website regularly with new and exciting information about the collection.

In the meantime, please keep safe and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum and grounds when it reopens."

You can keep up to date with developments here or on our Facebook and Twitter.

We’ll be back…