Whatever your historical interests might be, the artefacts, exhibitions, oddities, educational pieces and intriguing events at Leeds many magnificent museums and art galleries will have you covered. These paeans to the past are treasure troves of historical interest, from the award-winning medical collections at Thackray Museum to the military antiques at the Royal Armouries and the classical pieces at the Leeds City Museum (and the stuffed tiger...), there's plenty to get your teeth into. Here are our favourites.
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Leeds' best museums
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.
Image ©: AdamKR
If you ever needed a fascinating but damning reminder of mankind’s propensity for war, look no further than Leeds’ Royal Armouries. The huge museum in the Clarence Dock area of the city is contemporary in its presentation of exhibits, and hands-on (well, as much as it can be with objects that are designed to maim, kill and obliterate). You won’t need a strong interest in history to find the Armouries captivating and enjoyable, or to be bowled over by the 70,000 artefacts on display.A globally diverse collection of arms, armour and artillery dates from antiquity to the present day, and includes royal armour for kings and horses with swords and helmets through the centuries, before charting the invention and rapid evolution of guns as we know them today. Bullets, uniforms, knives, chainmail, pistols and cannons are meticulously laid out in immersive exhibitions alongside painted portraits and drawings depicting war or those involved in it.
Image ©: Simon Cliff
Home to the Leeds Tiger, a characterful example of Victorian taxidermy saved from destruction by public lobby, Leeds Museum is one of our favourite free visits in Leeds. Reopened in 2008 after a 40 year hiatus, the museum is a good place to learn about local history as well as see Nesyamun, aka the ‘Leeds mummy’ (we do like to lay claim to our artefacts, don’t we), a Roman floor mosaic uncovered a few miles down the road and plentiful crap taxidermy.