The Bowes Museum > Friends > History of the Friends
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History of the Friends of The Bowes Museum


After the deaths of The Museum’s founders, Joséphine (1875) and John Bowes (1885), the task of completing The Museum was inherited by a Board of appointed Trustees. Costs mounted annually, particularly during the war years when there was a backlog of essential repairs and a significant decrease in visitors.

Crisis point was reached in 1949 when closure of The Museum became an active consideration. To save the Museum a group of enthusiasts organised a number of fund-raising events throughout the region culminating in a spectacular concert at Seaburn Hall in Sunderland, on 11th December 1949, when the group was established as a society named the Friends of The Bowes Museum.Their inaugural meeting was held on 26th July 1950.

Since that date the Friends have continued to support The Museum in many different ways; with financial donations, publicity and as volunteers.

Until her death in 2002 the Friends were honoured to have as their Patron Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, who had had close connections with The Museum and the surrounding area since her childhood days. As a memorial to her 40 years as an interested and supportive patron, and as a regular visitor, the Friends erected a magnificent armillary sphere in the grounds of the Museum.

The Friends continue to thrive and now have over 2,500 members.

The Bowes Museum is closed!


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.

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.

Do please remember, however, that the Museum’s park and grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 – 4.00 daily, and that we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, clues can be found here.

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.