£3m gardens plan for County Durham's Bowes Museum

Top designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd has won a contest to design a £3m overhaul of Bowes Museum gardens

The parterre gardens at Bowes Museum from the air as they are today
The parterre gardens at Bowes Museum from the air as they are today

A top designer has won a competition to revamp the 22-acre gardens and grounds of a North East museum.

Arabella Lennox-Boyd was one of three internationally renowned designers invited to submit plans for the £3m project at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

The brief was to create a garden to complement the Grade 1 listed building and its outstanding collection of fine and decorative arts.

The outline was that the design needed to be exciting for horticulturists, cater for the wide range of visitors of all ages, and reflect the botanical importance of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s winning plans include a parterre with shallow canals, a pergola, rose covered pavilions and stepped banks topped by pleached limes - a method of training trees to produce a narrow screen or hedge - to frame the French chateau-style museum.

The design also includes a contemporary café, a horticultural therapy centre and a play area with wide-scale trees, shrubs and herbaceous planting to provide year-long horticultural interest.

Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s master-plan design for The Bowes Museum grounds
Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s master-plan design for The Bowes Museum grounds

Peter Millican, a trustee of the Bowes Museum and head of the judging panel, said: “I am extremely excited about the creation of a wonderful new garden.

“The Arabella Lennox-Boyd design is not only stunning but offers something for everyone and will continue to develop over the years, as all good gardens should.

“Her design complements both the museum and the vision of its founders John and Joséphine Bowes.”

Another of the judges, journalist and author Christopher Stocks said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the Bowes Museum to really raise its game, not only for its extraordinary building and remarkable collections, but for its gardens too.

“This will make it a first among British museums and is a brilliant way of encouraging other galleries to be more ambitious about their settings and surroundings.”

 Clare Foster, garden editor of House and Garden magazine said: “With international garden design on the ascendant, it seems the time is right for such an exciting project and the museum’s stunning and unusual architecture deserves an equally striking landscape to complement it.”

The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham
The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham

Italian by birth, Arabella Lennox-Boyd has been working in the UK for over 40 years, designing more than 400 gardens worldwide.

She has won six Chelsea Flower Show gold medals, including best of show and heads a landscape and architectural design business in London.

She lives at Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire, with her husband, the former Conservative MP Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd, who is one of the country’s leading sundial designers.

Her client list includes Sting, Sir Terence Conran and Queen Paola of Belgium.

The gardens project is the latest chapter in the history of the spectacular building. It was purpose-built by John Bowes, the son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore.

His mother was a commoner, Mary Millner, who the Earl married just 16 hours before his death.

From 1847 John, who profited from the coal reserves on his land, spent his time in France and England exploring his interest in the arts.

In Paris he bought a theatre and met the Parisian actress and painter Joséphine Coffin-Chevallier. Once the couple married in 1852 they began to develop the idea of creating a world-class museum back in John’s ancestral home of Teesdale, with the foundation stone being laid in 1869.


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