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Archive visit 1

Today was my first visit to the archive and Reading Room of the Bowes Museum. What a treasure trove of material, it seems impossible that anything new could be discovered about the collection and the museum. I had hoped to find the names of the people who built the museum, primarily the craftsmen and women that were employed by Joseph Kyle, the contracted builder of the museum. Kyle used a lot of local labour to undertake jobs such as stonemasonry, painting, joiner, plastering etc. Although records exist form Mr Kyle, many are held in the Durham County Record Office, rather than in the Bowes. However there are references to skilled workers in other places, principally the Teesdale Mercury. One story has caught my imagination, a fight between Mr Joseph Kyle (Jn) the son of Mr Kyle the builder and Mr Richard Akers, an old servant of John Bowes. It seems Mr Kyle came onto the Bowes site with his small dog. The dog chased Mr Akers' cat up a tree, and Mr Akers threw stones at the dog to drive it off. Mr Kyle then came into the museum to confront Mr Akers for throwing stones at his dog. It seems Mr Akers used language so foul that it could not be reported in the paper, but that Mr Kyle then got his hands around Mr Akers throat, leading Mr Akers to attack Mr Kyle with a broom. Whilst this is an exciting story in itself, one that leads to Mr Akers being fined over 2 shillings (even though it seems he may have been initially justified in throwing the stones at Mr Kyle's dog), what is most interesting to me is that two joiners, Mr Thomas Lee Scott, and William Gregson give evidence in the magistrates court, Mr Scott having broken up the fight between the two, imploring Mr Kyle; "Not to strike the old man". It seems to me very brave of Mr Scott to give evidence that could have led to Mr Kyle's behaviour being called into question, as Mr Scott was dependent on the older Mr Kyle (the builder) for his livelihood. I have decided that I want to honour Mr Scott by making his apron.


There are various other references to craftsmen, including a report of a drunken plasterer Mr John Hutchinson (Teesdale Mercury 1st August 1877) and of a joiner named Thomas Hunter of Barnard Castle in the Teasdale Mercury of 1st December 1875.


Sadly there seem to be no references to craftswomen, although it is highly likely that women wove carpets and made curtains for the museum.


It seems that many of the documents that might hold the names of Mr Kyle's workers are in the Durham County Record Office.

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