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 I

In Focus: John Joseph Merlin II


In Focus: John Joseph Merlin II

In Focus: John Joseph Merlin III


In Focus: John Joseph Merlin III

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.