From the Darlington & Stockton Times of February February 14, 1874.  The D&S Times of 150 years ago this week gave its readers an update on the progress of “Mr Bowes’ mansion at Barnard Castle” where the walls had grown high enough to make them “a conspicuous object in the landscape from various points of view at several miles distance from the town”.

This was, of course, the Bowes Museum taking shape.

“The building has been in progress for about four years and is two thirds completed,” said the report. “We understand that the work would have gone with greater rapidity had it not been for the delay in procuring stone of the requisite dimensions for the numerous massive columns and entablatures.”

Josephine Bowes, the French actress wife of John Bowes of Streatlam Castle, had laid the foundation stone on November 27, 1869.

“When completed, the edifice, in the magnificence of its appearance, will have few rivals in the country,” said the D&S.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Josephine Bowes, founder of the Bowes Museum, whose death at the age of 48 was announced in the D&S

"The inhabitants of Barnard Castle may feel a degree of pride in having this, one of the grandest buildings in the kingdom, erected within their boundaries, and the long-honoured name of Bowes will derive additional lustre from this further contribution to the attractions of Teesdale.”

Readers would then have turned the page to be greeted by a shocking paragraph. “We deeply regret to have to announce the death of Mrs Bowes, which took place at the family residence in Paris, on Monday,” it said.

For the previous 12 years, Josephine had been collecting precious items in Paris, and, right up to the end, as her health slipped away and she became housebound, she was packaging them up to be shipped to Streatlam Castle ready for when her museum was complete.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle

She was only 48 and her husband, one of the biggest coal owners in Durham, had been devoted to her and their museum project.

“The melancholy event will be especially deplored in this district,” said the D&S. Even though there was pride in Barney that the museum was nearing completion there were suddenly doubts about whether it would ever be finished.