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New Silver Swan "Coins It In" at The Bowes Museum
From Left, Adrian Jenkins, the museum´s Director, and Derek Nixon, whose company made the Swan and the case.

COUNTY DURHAM.- The Bowes Museum has taken delivery of a new, coin operated Silver Swan which it hopes will generate extra funding towards the upkeep of the French style chȃteau.

Bespoke furniture makers Anthony Nixon, of Barnard Castle, were commissioned to produce the unusual donations box and they certainly gave their imagination full rein in creating the hand carved bird from oak.

“We wanted to make something relevant to the Museum, and with a bit more interest than your usual contributions box,” said the firm’s owner Derek Nixon. “The Silver Swan, as the Museum’s most identifiable artefact, was the obvious choice.”

The Museum’s original Silver Swan was once coin operated, and many visitors recall putting sixpence - 2½p in today’s terms - in a slot to operate it. However, the unique automaton is now played just once a day to preserve its delicate mechanism.

The new swan has a slot which directs coins into the head of the bird, and when enough coins are collected the swan gracefully dips its neck, reminiscent of the original 230-year-old automaton, and deposits the cash into a collecting box.

“This was surprisingly difficult to achieve,” added Mr Nixon. “I’m certain we’ve disproved several accepted laws of leverage and gravity over the last couple of weeks!”

The wooden swan, which is painted silver, sits within a fumed oak case, which incorporates a step to allow younger visitors to reach the coin slot.

The commission, which was sponsored by Mr Nixon’s company, took up almost 200 man hours at the firm’s workshops close to the Museum. It incorporates used machine parts from woodworking machinery almost as old as the Museum, and still in good order.

“It made a welcome change from kitchens and wardrobes,” said Mr Nixon. “All of our staff have been involved in the build and the result is a credit to their skill and commitment.

“Although the concept cost many times the charity’s original budget, we were happy to contribute the difference to the future of the Museum, which is an important part of the economic fabric of Teesdale.”

Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “We are extremely grateful to Mr Nixon and his team for producing this wonderful piece of craftsmanship, and for their sponsorship. Many visitors remember the original Silver Swan situated in the Entrance Hall, and operating it with a coin. This excellent model is certainly drawing the attention and amusement of current visitors, who are happy to part with some coins to see it perform. It’s an excellent asset, in terms of artistry and the added bonus of raising much needed revenue to maintain the Museum.”

The Bowes Museum | Silver Swan | Anthony Nixon |

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