Barnard castle

The wonders of 18th-century automata

At the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, Mark Twain was mesmerised by a life-sized silver swan with ‘a living grace about his movement and a living intelligence in his eyes… swimming about as comfortably and unconcernedly as if he had been born in a morass instead of a jeweller’s shop’. The Silver Swan has been its leading attraction, drawing spellbound visitors to its afternoon performances The jeweller’s shop this mechanical marvel had been born in 100 years earlier was Cox’s Jewelry Museum in London, but its mechanism of 700 components powered by three clockwork motors was the invention of Belgian-born horologist John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803), aka ‘the Ingenious Mechanic’. Turning

Boris’s Barnard Castle quip backfires

This afternoon the Prime Minister chaired the second meeting with business bigwigs on his ‘Build Back Better’ council, whose membership includes John Lewis supremo Sharon White, Heathrow chief Lord Deighton and Charlotte Hogg of Visa. The dry-as-dust press release to mark the occasion is replete with the usual jejune platitudes beloved of Whitehall mandarins for the government’s ‘Plan for Growth’ and forthcoming ‘Innovation Strategy.’ What the dispatch did not mention however was a typically Johnsonian jibe at the expense of his former chief adviser. Following the news yesterday that GlaxoSmithKleine will support the manufacturing of up to 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine at its Barnard Castle plant, Mr

What is there to see in Barnard Castle?

Site test What’s on offer in the town of Barnard Castle? — Ruined 12th-century castle perched high above the Tees, built by Bernard de Balliol and later passed into the hands of Richard III, whose emblem appears above an inner window. — Bowes Museum: magnificent 19th-century French-style gallery built by mine-owner John Bowes and his wife, Josephine. Contains works by El Greco, Goya and Canaletto. Most popular exhibit is a mechanical silver swan which preens itself every day at 2 p.m. — Teeside Way: riverside walk in gorge of River Tees. — Barnard Castle Band: a brass band which has been going since 1860. Signs and symptoms The government broadened

Charles Moore

The ferocious bias against Dominic Cummings

At Dominic Cummings’s press conference on Monday, reporters tried two lines of attack. One was to behave like local detectives, fixating on exact details of the Cummings family journey to Barnard Castle, such as why the car had stopped en route (answer: so that the Cummingses’ son, aged four, could have a pee). The other was to invoke viewers, readers, members of the public blind with fury that there was ‘one law’ for government bigwigs, and ‘another’ for everyone else. Yet Mr Cummings’s statement and answers made a good case that there had not been ‘one law’ for him, but that he had the ‘reasonable excuse’ that the law permits