The Bowes Museum
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Designed in the manner of a French chateau, the museum is a homage to the personal history and tastes of its founders, John and Joséphine Bowes.
A wealthy businessman with a passion for the arts, John took frequent trips to France to explore his cultural interests. In 1847 he made the purchase of the Théatre des Variétés in Paris, where he met and fell in love with Joséphine who was working as an actress.
Joséphine was also a talented amateur painter, and her interests spanned a range of art forms including ceramics, furniture and textiles. Once the couple married in 1852 they developed the idea of creating a museum back in John’s ancestral home, hoping to bring their love of art to the local community.
In 1869 Joséphine laid the foundation stone of The Bowes and as the building grew, so did the collection – an astounding 15,000 objects were purchased between 1862 and 1874. After Joséphine's death, John virtually ceased collecting and the project stalled. Neither ever saw the building completed.
Development continued under the leadership of the trustees and The Bowes Museum finally opened to the public on 10 June 1892, attracting nearly 63,000 visitors in its first year.
In August 2014, the Museum ran a successful Art Happens crowdfunding campaign to conserve and redisplay their 15th-century Flemish alterpiece.