The Bowes Museum > Friends > History of the Friends

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.

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 info@thebowesmuseum.org.uk, 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…