North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions

20 March 2021 – 19 September 2021

The Bowes Museum is delighted to announce that it will be holding an exhibition from March 2021 showcasing some of the remarkable North Country quilts it has added to its collection over the last 20 years.

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions follows on from the hugely successful North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition, which the Museum held in 2000.

As well as featuring works picked out for their uniqueness, it will also tell the stories behind some of the quilts, why they were chosen to become part of the Museum’s collection and visitors will also be able to discover more about the cultural tradition.

North Country quilts, also known as Durham quilts, have been made throughout the region for over 200 years and have their own distinctive style and characteristics, including quilting patterns stitched through the layers of fabric to create subtle and understated softly sculptured surfaces.

In many communities, including Teesdale, Weardale and Allendale, quilt making was part of the fabric of rural and industrial life, both as a means of generating income and also as a way of life with communities quilting with friends and family.

A resurgence in the popularity of the practical craft in recent years has seen contemporary textile artists reference the North Country quilting tradition in their work, facets of which will be reflected within the exhibition.

One of the highlights of the exhibition will be a late 19th century strippy quilt made by Hannah Hauxwell’s grandmother, which was bought at auction in 2019. This is a classic example of a North Country quilt with a bold but simple design and charming cotton prints that captivate the eye.

There will be fine examples of wholecloth and strippy quilts, as well as pieced quilts and coverlets including a pretty mosaic patchwork made by a group of Heighington WI members. One quilt on display will be a beautiful replica of an original 1930s Northern Industries Workrooms (NIW) quilt made by Evelyn Jones and Elsie Gibson, who worked in the NIW ‘factory’ in Barnard Castle and who demonstrated their quilting skills during the last exhibition.

The exhibition is being curated by Joanna Hashagen, the Curator of Fashion and Textiles at The Bowes Museum and Dorothy Osler, Author and Exhibition Consultant, who is also writing a catalogue to accompany the show.

Joanna Hashagen, the Curator of Fashion and Textiles at The Bowes Museum, said: “I have spent a lot of time carefully acquiring quilts that complement and add to the collection in the last twenty years and this seemed like the right time to share a selection. It is also a way of thanking those who have donated their treasured quilts to The Bowes Museum. I think visitors will be enthralled by the different quilts in the exhibition and it will show them the importance and relevance of our cultural textile history. I also hope that the exhibition will inspire some of them to take up and enjoy making patchwork or quilting.”

Dorothy Osler, Author and Exhibition Consultant, said: “It really is wonderful to be back working with Joanna and the team at The Bowes Museum to help curate what promises to be a fine exhibition, with some simply stand out pieces that highlight how the style of North Country quilting has stood the test of time.”

The Bowes Museum began collecting quilts in the 1930s and has since gained national recognition for the importance of its extensive quilt collection, dating back to the late 1700s.

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions opens to the public on 20 March 2021 and closes on 19 September 2021.

Admission to the Museum is now by advance booking, tickets for timed entry slots are available from the Museum website: or by calling 01833 690606 outside of Lockdown restrictions.  Check the Museum Wesbsite for the latest situation.

The Museum has been awarded VisitEngland’s “We’re Good To Go” certification. Hand sanitisation stations and signage reminding people to adhere to social distancing are placed around the Museum and gardens.

There are a number of article blogs here at the website associated with the acquisition of the Hannah Hauxwell Quilts, including our own member’s efforts analysing how to construct similar quilts for ourselves.