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.