Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills
Putting the city’s industrial past on display, this former woollen mill includes working machinery, artefacts and even a steam train. Regular events are held.
Despite the unfortunate reputation of the surrounding area, Armley Mills is still a popular option for a historically themed family day out. Paying homage to Leeds’ thriving industrial past, the museum and former woollen mill is simultaneously a tribute to the ingenuity of Victorian Britain, and a grim reminder of the punishing hours and conditions that workers endured.
The surrounding estate of 19th-century back to backs and terraces gives the museum a deep sense of relevancy and authenticity, while the working machinery and hundreds of artefacts inside will keep visitors occupied for hours. Intricate, meticulously restored examples of textile machinery, railway equipment and heavy engineering are displayed in the large mill building museum, which overlooks the River Aire and Kirkstall Valley.
A vintage black-and-white cinema, artwork, costumes, and everyday objects from the era help paint a picture of the life of a Victorian millworker. The star exhibit is a fascinating and fully functioning spinning machine that rattles and clacks as it spins wool fibres into yarn, and the museum’s steam engine, Jack, is enduringly popular with the kids.
The city’s famous Steampunk Market occasionally takes up a very appropriate residency within the museum’s space, the Knit and Knatter group is a regular sight on weekends, and the Spinners of Aire demonstrate and teach traditional carding, spinning and weaving of wool.
One thing that’s lacking is a café, and those visiting during the cooler months should wrap up warm – it can get very chilly in winter.