In Focus: John Joseph Merlin

In Focus: John Joseph Merlin


Jonathan Peacock, Trustee of The Bowes Museum continues the remarkable story of John Joseph Merlin. The 250th anniversary of his most famous creation - and the Bowes Museum’s most treasured object - the Silver Swan, is approaching, and it is high time he was given the acknowledgement he deserves.

Born in Belgium, John Joseph Merlin came to England in 1760, and soon proved himself an inventor and showman of genius. None has ever matched the range and variety of his talents as mechanic, horologist, musician, performer, innovator and well-connected member of the Age of Enlightenment.

He regularly socialised with the luminaries of the period, including Dr Johnson, Dr Burney and his daughter Fanny, the composer CPE Bach and the artist Thomas Gainsborough. He even performed alongside some of the most famous actors and celebrities of day, such as John Philip Kemble and Mrs Jordan, and in the presence, indeed, of most of the nobility, from the Prince of Wales down. Find more about the Silver Swan here.

In Focus: John Joseph Merlin I


In Focus: John Joseph Merlin II


In Focus: John Joseph Merlin III


The Bowes Museum is open!


The Bowes Museum is looking forward to welcoming you!

You are able to enjoy the hugely popular Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection, Pre-Raphaelite Knights: Reinventing the Medieval World and blimey! Lucretia exhibitions as well as an exciting programme of family workshops throughout the summer holidays.

The health and well-being of our visitors, staff and volunteers are our priority, and in line with the latest Government guidance on COVID-19 the changes we have made will help you to feel confident, safe and enjoy your visit.

Entry to the Museum has to be booked before you visit here or by telephoning us on 01833 690606. Details about what to expect when you visit are available when you click here.