The Bowes family – George Bowes, his two sisters, and his second wife Mary – were all greatly interested in music. Their financial ledgers survive in Durham Archives and show a wide range of expenditure on musical items, including instruments, printed and manuscript music, musical events, and the support of favoured musicians in both London and the north-east. The ledgers reveal that the Bowes extensively subscribed to new musical publications. However, deficiencies in the ledgers – failure to record expenditure in detail, payments made out of ready cash, and so on – almost certainly result in an underestimation of the extent of their subscriptions. In addition, while some expenditure on behalf of Bowes's sisters is recorded, their personal accounts are now lost, which may have recorded further subscriptions.

This chapter brings together information from subscription lists and from the Bowes's own ledgers, to build up a picture of the musical tastes of the family. The paper explores possible motives behind the various subscriptions; some of the music they bought would have been intended for their household band, while others were for their own private use, and still others purchased to demonstrate their patronage of the arts, which Bowes considered to be the duty of a gentleman.