Thursday, 8 April 2010

Exchange time

                                The Silver Swan, Bowes Museum

                                             Image: BBC

Just a quick personal post. Our old friends Jacques and Catherine have been with us while our French exchange is on. It's been a good opportunity to do a bit of walking and exploring around this lovely part of England.

Malham Cove and Gordale were rather beautiful yesterday and the day before we did a drive up to the Bowes museum in Barnard Castle. Visit it if you get a chance. It's an amazing story really. The illegitimate son of an aristocrat, John Bowes, never really accepted by the aristocracy, goes to France, uses some of his large inheritance to buy a theatre, falls in love with a young actress, Joséphine, buys her a château near Paris (as you do), then they decide to put their collections of art, ceramics and other objects into a museum of their own creation in northern England. They buy some land in Barnard Castle, Northumberland, and have a huge museum built by a French architect, a museum which resembles a French château. The museum is not finished until after the death of both John and Joséphine. Joséphine was a talented artist herself and many of her paintings are on display in the museum.

The museum's main attraction (apart from two stunning Canaletto paintings) is the Silver Swan, a silver automaton swan made about 250 years ago which is allowed to function once a day at two o'clock. Visitors gather round for a 32 second display from this clockwork marvel.

If you enjoy pottery (which I don't really) the collection of European porcelain and earthenware is amazing. Otherwise there are paintings by Goya, Courbet and Sisley.

We are off to France tomorrow for a week in Puyravault.


  1. I love Bowes Museum! I believe some of our pupils were involved in restoring some of the silver leaves around the Swan. Also some distant relative of mine who was a taxidemist did some of the taxidermy in the basement rooms (nice job, not!)
    Enjoy France,

  2. Wow! That sounds really interesting. Back in the dark ages I was educated in the West Riding, and after forty years in other places am planning a nostalgic tour to check out old haunts (next Autumn), so will keep the address!