Today's Object of the Week is a North East museum's most treasured exhibit, which is working again.

The Bowes Museum Silver Swan has been featured as our Object of the Week before, but we thought it was worth highlighting again due to ongoing work to get it moving once more.

Guests at the museum, near Barnard Castle, were this week treated to a special glimpse of the restoration work being conducted on their most famed exhibit, the Silver Swan.

The Northern Echo: Guests gather for the first public performance of the Bowes Museum Silver Swan in more than three yearsGuests gather for the first public performance of the Bowes Museum Silver Swan in more than three years (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Its previous public performance was in 2020, before the pandemic restrictions.

The 18th century automaton, renowned for its lifelike movement, is undergoing a extensive refurbishment thanks to funds raised through a campaign supported by museum visitors and a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Hannah Fox, the museum's executive director, acknowledged the ongoing support and expressed excitement about the 250-year-old swan's forthcoming performances.

She said: "Conservation work on the wonderful Silver Swan has been underway for the last four months.

"Thanks to the generous support of visitors and funders, this has progressed well, and we intend to have daily performances again starting in February 2024.

"On Thursday night, we invited supporters and neighbours for a Christmas treat when they had a sneak peek to see it perform as never before."

The Northern Echo: Hannah Fox Exec Director of Bowes Museum with the team from Cumbria Clock Company who have restored

The exclusive viewing provided a unique opportunity to witness the swan's internal workings before the restoration is complete, including the replacement of the neck rings and glass rods.

The restorative work, performed by the Cumbria Clock Company, has required the removal of the swan's head and neck.

The full-sized female mute swan replica was first exhibited in James Cox's Museum of Mechanical Marvels in London in 1773.

The intricacy of its internal mechanisms, designed by John Joseph Merlin, includes over 700 major components and mechanisms similar to those featured in analytical engines, the early precursors of computers.

John and Joséphine Bowes, founders of the museum, acquired the swan for £200 from a Parisian jeweller, a price claimed to be only 10 per cent of the original asking price.

The swan, which boasts six distinct melodies, is composed of solid silver weighing between 25 and 30 kilos, featuring 99 silver leaves, 113 silver rings in the neck, and 141 glass rods.

Lorraine Groves, who donated £2,500 to a crowdfunding campaign for the restoration of the exhibit, was given the honour of winding up the Silver Swan this week.

Read about previous Objects of the Week here:

Get more exclusive content from The Northern Echo with a premium subscription for just £4 for four months for a limited time only. Click here for details.

Sharing her personal connection with the project, she said: "My grandad was a clock and watchmaker so I’ve got that memory of him as a child making and repairing clocks and watches.

"The fact that this is an automata and it’s got all those working parts is really fascinating.

"The Bowes Museum is really important to the local people and this is an internationally important piece of art."