Carrying on from York and Castle Howard, we proceeded to Helmsley, a most delightful and unspoiled town, which endeared itself to us as there was a section of free parking in the middle of town. We haven’t seen such a thing anywhere else.
There was something for both of us here. Whilst Mark visited this rather lovely pie shop…
…I was happily browsing this knitting shop. I don’t think either of us bought anything, but we had a lovely time.
We were too early for the wisteria in Cambridge, but boy, it’s here with a vengeance. Just glorious.
We were headed to Barnard Castle, which is not just a castle, but a whole village (or is it town?). I just wandered around with my mouth open, admiring all the stunning buildings
with stunning details. Look at these little adornments.
Lots of these historic towns have a central market place and Barnard Castle is no exception. This was a corn market. On a sidenote, I had no idea that England grew so much corn, but corn markets and exchanges are everywhere, so they must have grown the odd bit.
We visited Barnard Castle as I wanted to go to the Bowes Museum. This is one of the few purpose built museums of its time and it is built in the style of a French chateau, as it was the brainchild of the wife of industrialist John Bowes, Josephine, who was French. It has a very grand entrance.
The view from the front looking over the gardens.
It was built to showcase the Bowes’ collection of things they had amassed from all over the world. There’s some pretty stunning stuff in here. Among my favourites was the mechanical swan
The swan was made in 1773 and was acquired by the Bowes’ in 1872. It was originally coin operated and would go all day, but now it is only operated once a day. This is pretty amazing for something so old
I took this from the Bowes Museum website (https://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/Collections/Explore-The-Collection/The-Silver-Swan) :
“The American novelist Mark Twain also saw the Silver Swan at the Paris exhibition in 1867 and described it in his book The Innocents Abroad:
‘I watched the Silver Swan, which had a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes – watched him swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as if he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop – watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it…’ “
You can see the operator in the video. There are three separate mechanisms that drive the swan. The silver fish appears to be taken from the fish swimming in the lake, which are really glass tubes. In fact, the fish is permanently in the beak of the swan and appears and disappears.
This is not the only automaton in the museum. This rather delightful mouse is also on display, but it doesn’t operate, which is a shame. It is clockwork, runs around, stops and twitches its whiskers and then runs around some more. I love the leather case.
There’s so much to look at in the museum. They had a Goya exhibition when we were there, which was rather splendid, if not a little depressing, and a whole room of textiles and clothing.
They restore the tapestries in a glass cube so that people like me can observe their technique. Sadly they weren’t at work when we visited.
This man’s collar is rather fabulous.
and I enjoyed looking at the flax loom, although this one was operated by young children in factories, which is rather ghastly.
One connection I hadn’t made is that the Bowes family are related to the Queen Mother, who was of course a Bowes-Lyon. The family estates were split at one point and then reconciled. I found this an interesting piece of history.
We eventually left the museum and thought we’d explore the castle, which is a ruin, with very little left to see.
So we tottered back into town, whereupon I observed this church with the blue clock face. Now we have been slightly puzzled by these clock faces – they are everywhere and they clearly aren’t original. Did someone do a job lot on blue clock faces? Is there a church clock door to door salesperson? Are they government issued? Does anyone know? Can you enlighten me if you do as it’s driving me insane!
I had this beautiful building in amongst my photos but I have no idea what it is. I love those round tower-like structures at the end.
So another wonderful day as we head towards Scotland, which was the original aim of our trip.