Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Bowes Museum: Monkey Tree Legacy

Hello lovelies!  Please read this-you can help!

A post with a difference today, I'm writing about a tree.  No, I promise I haven't gone mad, it's a really important tree.  John Bowes, founder of The Bowes Museum (my favourite museum based in Barnard Castle) planted a beautiful and quirky looking monkey-puzzle tree (also known as Araucaria araucana to give it its Sunday name!) in the museum's grounds way back in 1871, and this post is all about preserving it's legacy.  The tree stood tall in the grounds of the museum until 2016 when it sadly died, and has since been felled for health and safety reasons.  Because the tree has such a legacy and is an integral connection to the museum's founders, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to transform its impressive trunk into a collection of 125 wooden bowls to tie in with the museum's 125th anniversary.

 The remaining trunk of the Monkey-Puzzle tree
A sketch of the bowl design

Headed up by my wonderful friend Alison Nicholson, Fundraising Officer at The Bowes Museum, alongside Director of the Bowes Centre, Matthew Read, this is your chance to get involved and by doing so, take away an iconic piece of The Bowes Museum's history and legacy.  The Kickstarter was launched on Friday (and at last look was already 41% funded!!!) and can be found here.  With a range of levels of pledge to suit every budget, there's certainly a great way for everyone to get involved!  Starting from £1 (which warrants you a thank you across social media!) the Kickstarter aims to reach £10,000 in 49 days in order for the project to go ahead.  Maybe you'd like to plant your own monkey puzzle tree?  Pledge £15 to receive a bespoke pack of seeds, directly inherited from Monkey Puzzle Trees in Scotland (sadly the Bowes' tree was male and therefore did not produce seeds).  What about a nice bowl?  Pledges start from £125 to own one of the iconic bowls to commemorate both the tree and museum's history and legacy.  I opted for the £12 pledge, a monkey-puzzle keyring, so I can own a little piece of the original iconic tree and remember this wonderful project!  And if you want to help but can't pledge, then why not just spread the word?!  I'm asking my readers to share the link to the Kickstarter across their social media channels (you never know, you might have a friend who'd love to get involved!) in an effort to boost the fund and see this project through to its completion, allowing the tree to live on after being such an important part of the museum's history.  You can find the Kickstarter link here (please copy and paste across Social Media if you can!).

 Matthew and Alison with part of the tree trunk displayed on railway sleepers (the tree as a sapling was originally transported to Barnard Castle by train)

 The tree-trunk after its branches had been felled in all its totem glory!

Alison with part of the monkey-puzzle tree

John and Josephine's story is one that I've shared time and time again on Coco.  Josephine was a lady after my own heart; a lover of high-fashion and the arts and a real culture-vulture of her time, I feel that I have both her and John to thank for my fashion history education.  Visiting numerous exhibitions at the museum, which they built to house their growing collection of art (but sadly didn't survive to see it's completion), led me down the path of discovering my own love of fashion exhibitions, high-end fashion and its history and opened my eyes to a world of art, history and culture that I may not have discovered had it not been for their original plans.  I understand that whilst reading this, you may not feel the same connection to the museum as I do, but surely transforming this beautiful piece of history into something that will live on forever is far better than watching it rot in the grounds?  I know John and Josephine would certainly approve of this wonderful campaign.

If you're interested in finding out more about the history of John and Josephine's tree, you can do so here in this interesting article on the tree and its history, written by James Illingworth back in 2016.  Similarly, there are some amazing facts about Monkey-Puzzle trees here.  

Most importantly, if you'd like to back this wonderful campaign, then here is the link once again to the Turning Point: MP125 Kickstarter, please share this link across social media, and allow this beautiful piece of history to live on forever!

Until next time,

Kayleigh x

All images were provided to me and are © The Bowes Museum.  

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