The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2017 > The Clockwork Garden

The Clockwork Garden


29 July - 5 November

Flying in from somewhere far out in the black of space, a strange mechanical seed has landed in our temporary exhibition gallery and unfurled to fill it with the beautiful interactive Clockwork Garden Exhibition. It needs to learn the secrets that make our human gardens so full of life, joy and beauty, so it can take them back to its own planet, which has no gardens of its own. But will the ominous Orange Moon and its shadowy Mechanized Grizzlies find the seed before it's ready to return?

Only you can hold them at bay and fill the seed with enough wonder and joy to send it safely back into space…

The Clockwork Garden exhibition is an immersive and interactive installation full of strange metallic fronds, glimmering animations and whirring sounds. Inside it you will invent garden stories in the puppet theatre, dream in the clouds, make the garden bloom with colourful paper flowers, create mechanical artwork, puzzle out the magic of seeds and discover art from some brilliant contemporary artists.

In our own Earthly garden grounds you will be able to delve further into this fantastical story with The Clockwork Garden Adventure trail. Follow a curious, illustrated map and explore the grounds, finding tendrils of the mechanical seed, completing tasks and challenges and solving clues left by the wondrous characters of the Bowes' founders, both historical and fictional...

This wondrous world has been specially created by national children's arts charity The House of Fairy Tales.

Alongside all the interactive installations the exhibition will include artworks from: Gavin Turk, Sir Peter Blake, Mat Collishaw, Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, Simon English, Georgie Hopton, Simon Periton, Marvyn Gaye Chetwynd, Andrew Rae, Josh Knowles, Ian Dawson and Steven Claydon.

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Related Events


The Clockwork Garden Farewell Event

28 October, 10.00 - 4.00

The Clockwork Garden Farewell Event

Enjoy the Clockwork Garden Family Fun Day, designed to enable families to take part in all manner of fascinating, playful and novel activities. They won’t have seen anything like it! Make the most of a last opportunity to see the 'mechanimal' seed before it departs on 5 November.


Inside the Clockwork Mouse

28 October, 3.00,

Inside the Clockwork Mouse

As part of a day of drop-in activities marking the departure of the Clockwork Garden exhibition, join clockmaker Matthew Read as he takes a hands-on approach to looking inside automata - toys that move. From antiques to the modern day, sprockets, springs, cogs & levers are as important today as they were when the Museum’s Silver Swan and mechanical mouse were made. This short, fun talk will use modern clockwork toys to explain how automata work and why taking things to bits is great fun and a brilliant way to learn.


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The Bowes Museum grounds are open!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.