News Posts

The history of Leeds City Museum

If you’re interested in learning about our wonderful city, we recommend spending a day at Leeds city museum – a wonderful place with something for all the family. This week we’re going to take a look at the fascinating history of the museum itself, and what it offers for the visitor today.

Early history of the city museum

When members of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary society decided that Leeds was worthy of its own museum back in 1819, they could have had no idea how popular it would be today. It took them two years to open to the public at the original site on Park Row, and they kept control of the museum for 100 years before the city council took it over in 1921. Everything ran smoothly until bombing in WWII damaged much of the exhibits and original building, but the council kept the museum open as it improved local morale.

Due to a lack of funding, it was decided that the museum would close in 1965 and viewing of the remaining exhibits would be by appointment only – an arrangement that remained until lottery funding in 2004 led to the refit of the old Leeds Institute building as the Leeds City Museum in 2005.

Leeds city museum’s new home

When Cuthbert Brodrick completed the building that now houses Leeds city museum in 1862, its purpose was to be the home for the Leeds Institute – an organisation with the goal of educating Leeds’ industrial workforce – as well as being a lecture venue.

When you look at the building today you can see Brodrick’s bold design, and recognise the similarities with his other creations: Leeds Town Hall and The Corn Exchange – which just goes to show what a great decision it was for Leeds council to turn this building into a museum!

Exhibitions and more 

As you can imagine, the majority of the exhibits in the museum have some connection to the history of Leeds – for example, the Leeds mummy and the Leeds tiger are famously loved features, but there’s so much more to discover! Laid out in galleries such as The Ancient World, Life on Earth, The World View, and the ever popular Leeds Story, the museum is easy to navigate and full of riches for the local history lover.

Drop your car with us at Trafalgar Street and take the short walk to Millennium Square for a visit to Leeds city museum for an entertaining and rewarding day out – oh, and did we mention that it’s free?!