Barnard Castle and the Silver Swan at The Bowes Museum

Some of you may remember back in October I went on holiday to the north of England and made a number of popular posts on my trip into old mines, behind waterfalls and along Hadrians Wall amongst other places.  I always had one more day to post so a little late, here it is.

On our final day of our holiday we decided to drive to Barnard Castle.  Barnard castle is a beautiful mid-size Market-Town in County Durham with a thriving centre and cultural heritage.   Teesdale had long been a rich valley fame for its wool and natural resources.

After the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, it took a long time to subdue the people of Northumbria who then as now are a rather tough, hardy and rebellious bunch who were always ready to fight for their freedom, even if it meant murdering the imposed and foreign Bishop of Durham.   This upset William The Conqueror to such a degree that he enacted what is called The Harrying of The North where he systematically destroyed, burnt and ruined the land, properties, livestock and crops in that portion of Northumbria which he could.  So many people were killed that even now the region is sparsely populated compared to other areas of the country.

The current settlement dates back to the twelfth century when Bernard De Balliol built the new castle and getting on for a millennium later, the ruined castle gives the name to the whole town.

Barnard Castle

The dramatic ruins of Barnard Castle in beautiful County Durham

Entrance to Barnard Castle

Entrance to Barnard Castle

The inner sanctum of the castle.  If you somehow manage to climb hundreds of feet up the steep river bank and castle walls then you had to get over the moat, climb the ditch and break in through these inner walls.


We had this huge castle all to ourselves!

County Bridge

County Bridge

Far below the castle walls lay the beautiful Country Bridge built in 1569 over the Tees Gorge. It is a great experience to walk or drive over the bridge though there are at traffic lights at both ends as it is only wide enough for one car at a time.

The remains of The Great Hall

The remains of The Great Hall

The remains of The Great Hall on the left with a well-preserved central keep towering overhead.

The Great Hall

You can see the holes above the windows which indicate that through the long history of the castle, at one point there was a first floor added to the Great Hall.

Barnard Castle is open to the public and is maintained by English Heritage.

Castle Well

Castle Well

The Castle Well – vital for defenders to have a water source within the castle walls for when the castle comes under siege.

Mature trees on top of the battlements

Mature trees on top of the battlements


The Market Cross

The Market Cross

The Market Cross or ‘Butter Mart’ an octagonal building built by Thomas Breaks and given to the town in 1747. The Market Cross has had several uses since 1747. It has been used as a fire station, town hall, court-house and ‘lock up’, the floor area was used for the selling of produce and dairy goods (so the name ‘Butter Mart’)

Two bullet holes in the weather vane on top of the Market Cross are reputed to have been the result of a shooting competition between a volunteer soldier and a local gamekeeper in 1804.

The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum

The beautiful Bowes Museum was built by a philanthropist in the 19th Century who believed that the local people should have access to the best arts and treasures in the world without making the then impossible journey to London or Paris.   You can read more about this great museum on my post from 2013.

The Silver Swan

The Silver Swan Automaton

The museum has more than enough to last an entire day is is by far the best museum I have been to in the U.K. out side of London and actually beats many of those in London, Paris or other world cities.   Without a doubt though, the highlight is the unique Silver Swan automaton created centuries ago by clock maker Joseph Merlin.  No matter how many times I see it in action, it never loses its wow-factor.  Below is the video I made of its performance.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in Heritage, history, Northumberland and Durham, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Barnard Castle and the Silver Swan at The Bowes Museum

  1. Amazing pictures and amazing history… Now I’ve got to add yet another place to my visit one day list.


  2. Pingback: The Hartley Colliery Disaster of 1862 | Stephen Liddell

  3. Pingback: Visiting the home of Joseph Hedley whose murder in 1826 shook the world! | Stephen Liddell

  4. Pingback: The Buttermarket of Barnard Castle | Stephen Liddell

  5. Pingback: Good reasons to visit Barnard Castle! But maybe not now Dominic Cummings | Stephen Liddell

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