Field Trip Friday #6 The Silver Swan

Today the kids and I had an invitation from our friend Mr. Ray to go over to the Bowes Museum in the lovely town of Barnard Castle..  This beautiful french style museum was built in the 19th century by John and Joséphine Bowes to house their art collection.


The queen mother’s maiden name was Bowes – Lyons .  I am not quite certain of John and Josephine’s relation to her.  The Bowes  couple had a great love for collecting fine art.

DSC02163It is a beautiful place.  I could spend days there.

We enjoyed looking at many forms of fine art.  There were paintings, clothing, tapestries, sculptures, china, antique toys and many more categories of amazingly beautiful artwork.


Meg really enjoyed the paintings.  I realised that this was probably the first time that she has seen art work of this caliber in real life.  She exclaimed, “Oh that one looks 3D.” and “How did they ever paint that?”  I enjoyed watching her and hearing which paintings drew her attention most.


Joshua was impressed by the “Penny Farthing”.  I was glad that we have a dear English friend like Mr. Ray to explain exactly how it got its name.  In those days a penny was a large coin and a farthing was small.  I’ll let you take it from there.


I enjoyed just “being art” in the Laura Ashley clothing exhibit.

The highlight of the museum it the 230 year old silver swan.  The swan was constructed of 30 lbs of silver.  The larger than life sized female swan is an animated clockwork\music box.  The Bowes Museum brings her to life by winding the gear box ever afternoon at 2 o’clock.

In this world of 3D movies, ipods and such things of entertainment it was so beautiful to watch a room full of adults and school children come gather quietly…

expectantly, for a magical bird who has entertained, queens and other royalty…

come to life.

The room lights went dim and her waters lit up.


The music began and her silver head turned and bobbed.  She bent round to straighten a feather on her back.  Looked and bobbed again.  The waters flowed and moved around her as fish swam about.  Her graceful swan neck arched, she leaned forward and grasp a small fish in her beak.  She closed her mouth round the fish, bobbed her head and fell silent again.

I could not help but think and sing Orlando Gibbon’s song\poem as we traveled from room to room seeing more beautiful artwork and swans.


The Silver swan who living had no note

when death approached unlocked her silent throat

leaning her breast upon the reedy shore

thus sang her first

and last

and sang no more 

We had such a great adventure with our friend Mr. Ray


As we headed back to Durham he drove us along up, up into the moors.  High up into the “tenant’s farms”.

The moors are a peaceful place.  Full of rugged beauty and a sense of timelessness.  I am so pleased that places like this do still exist.


Mr. Ray sang cheerfully and beautifully, as we traveled home, an old anthem of the north east.

Aw went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the ninth of Joon,
Eiteen hundred an’ sixty-two, on a summer’s efternoon;
Aw tyuk the ‘bus frae Balmbra’s, an’ she wis heavy laden,
Away we went alang Collingwood Street, that’s on the road to Blaydon.

Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin’,
We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’;
Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces,
Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.

We flew past Airmstrang’s factory, and up to the “Robin Adair”,
Just gannin’ doon te the railway bridge, the ‘bus wheel flew off there.
The lasses lost their crinolines off, an’ the veils that hide their faces,
An’ aw got two black eyes an’ a broken nose in gan te Blaydon Races.

Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin’,
We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’;
Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces,
Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.




3 responses to “Field Trip Friday #6 The Silver Swan

  1. You have left me speechless. That was such a wonderful blog. You have so much talent to write in such a way that I feel a part. Your friend sounds wonderful. You are so blessed.

    • Thank you both so much. I do want to share our everyday experiences with you all. Living in a place like Durham each day is rich in history, culture, new friends and life lessons. I miss you all but am happy we can stay connected in this way.

  2. Lovely…that’s what comes to mind. I am back in England feeling the history of centuries! Thank you, Beth.

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