Appleby in Westmoreland and the Bowes Museum

We’ve just returned from a couple of days away to the northwest of England and we stayed in the former market town of Appleby in Westmoreland (good photos). This is a historic town which has a long, wide high street with a cross at either end, indicating where the market used to begin and end. St Lawrence’s church has impressive cloisters and at the other end of the steep street, there is the ruins of Appleby Castle, part of which has been turned into a conference/wedding centre. There’s a pleasant walk along the river Eden, which flows through the town and a very solid bridge. The photos below show the bridge and the spring flowers along its banks.

Appleby Bridge

Appleby Bridge

Appleby Bridge

Appleby Bridge

A highlight of our 2 day break was a visit to the Bowes Museum which was built on the edge of the town of Barnard Castle. The museum, as shown in the photo below, is a magnificent building, in the style of a French château and built by the very wealthy John Bowes and his wife Josephine, and it dominates the landscape for miles around.

The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum

The museum’s collections are wide ranging and they also have a series of exhibitions each year. At present, there is an excellent exhibition of drawings by the political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. These drawings are all caricatures of Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister and are drawn very much from an anti Thatcher point of view. Those people who saw Thatcher as a saviour of Britain in the 1980s should definitely NOT visit this exhibition. Those people who saw Thatcher as more destructive than constructive will enjoy the drawings – some in colour – which satirise Thatcher and her policies. You can see a virtual tour of the exhibition here. The title Milk Snatcher refers to the Thatcher policy of stopping free milk for schools in the 1980s. The photo below is at the start of the exhibition – no photos of the drawings were allowed.

Scarfe exhibition

Scarfe exhibition

The other current exhibition is fashion-oriented and entitled Birds of Paradise. There are many exhibits showing a range of dresses and shoes and one stand out (photo below) is a black dress with wings at the back, featuring feathers from Birds of Paradise. Whether you admire this or not may depend on a) your taste and b) your sensitivity to the use of bird plumage in fashion.

Birds of Paradise dress at the Bowes Museum

Birds of Paradise dress at the Bowes Museum

Other highlights which caught my attention were a Rococo Clock and the complex metal work at the top of a staircase.

Rococo clock at Bowes Museum

Rococo clock at Bowes Museum

Ornate metalwork at Bowes Museum

Ornate metalwork at Bowes Museum

The most famous artefact in the museum is the Silver Swan automaton which is a beautiful piece of sculpture, with the swan surrounded by silver fish. At 2pm (too early for us) the swan rotates its head to music in a spectacular display. I tried to photograph the swan but the lighting made it difficult, so it’s worth while exploring the website to see close-up photos of the swan and its piscine entourage. The museum is worth spending a fair of time in, with its large art galleries containing many famous paintings and sculptures – see photo below of one of the high ceilinged galleries. If you are in the area, don’t miss it.

Bowes Museum gallery

Bowes Museum gallery

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