Leeds City Museum, Leeds

All, Leeds City Museum, Museums, West Yorkshire

Leeds City Museum provides an interesting hour or two exploring a varied (if slightly disjointed) collection of exhibits, staying true to the multiculturalism of modern day Leeds. The museum is well set up for kids with plenty of activities, low-level exhibits and a recreation area so there are plenty of young families which gives the place a nice (but noisy!) buzz.

The museum follows a roughly chronological order starting on the top floor with a whistle-stop tour through ancient and medieval Leeds and Yorkshire. The bulk of the exhibits are naturally from the industrial revolution onwards, when production and prosperity exploded in Leeds. There’s also a colourful collection of modern exhibits documenting the stories of immigrants and particularly the Asian populations of the city.

The café on the ground floor offered very affordable stodge at under a fiver and an even cheaper kids menu. Decent cup of coffee too.

My favourite bits:

  • The Wolf and Twins mosaic, which depicted the tale of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome in someone’s villa in Aldborough in the 4th century.
  • An 2,500 year old pipe (looks a recorder for beginners) found in Malham, carved from a sheep’s leg bone with visible teeth marks!
  • A glittering boiler from the 1880s, the same decade Taylor’s of Harrogate were starting out on their journey to take over the British tea business.
  • A gorgeous Syrian wall tile from the mid-1800s, the inscription reads: All that is on the face of the earth will perish, but the Face of your Lord, the Glorious, the Gracious, will forever remain.
  • A delicate palm-sized globe from 1825 – 1835 which was advertised as “a correct globe with the new discoveries” including Australia and the South Pacific Islands.
  • The mummified remains and facial reconstruction of Nesyamun, who lived and died in Thebes around 3,000 years ago. He was a priest in the Temple of Amun who looked after the sacrificial bulls.
  • A beautifully arranged bureau of butterflies, moths, fossils, Victorian stationery and a microscope in the Collectors Cabinet section of the museum.

The scores:

Exhibits: 5/10. A very wide range, a little piecemeal and very few showstoppers.

Environment: 5/10. Décor tired and functional with the odd child’s tantrum in earshot.

Refreshments: 6/10. Cheap, filling, unexciting.

Cost & Location: 9/10. At the top of town in the city’s cultural quarter and free.

Overall Score: 6/10. A great local museum, but in need of a refresh.

The links:

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

All, Ashmolean Museum, Museums, Oxfordshire

The world’s first public museum maintains a wonderful scope and range of exhibits within its warrens of gorgeous Regency architecture on Oxford’s Beaumont Street. The Ashmolean’s pedigree makes it a must-visit for any museum fan and its roots as a private collection are apparent in its diversity and depth, making for a slightly discombobulating experience.

You can recuperate in the caverns of the redbrick basement cafe which serves outrageously small scones and a lovely selection of local juices and beers, or you can make the ascent to the open air top floor restaurant which has a pricey menu and is disappointingly enclosed which limits views out across the city.

My favourite bits:

  • The iron band used to detain Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, one of Henry VIII’s closest advisors and a Reformation figurehead, when he was imprisoned in Oxford (pictured).
  • A 13th century ‘puzzle jug’ (pictured), a pub game where you had to get your ale by carefully twisting and pouring without it coming out of the hidden orifices.
  • Wucius Wong’s Autumn Feelings, an elegant and abstract piece of calligraphic art.
  • A large 17th century tapestry of unknown European origin, depicting A Musical Party in extraordinary detail (pictured).
  • John Rose’s gorgeously carpentered viol, made in the 17th century, with a delicate woman’s head atop the pegbox (pictured).
  • A 15th century Italian chessboard carved from bone, wood and horn (pictured). The first of MANY chessboards to feature on this blog, I assure you!
  • The porcelain gallery, a kaleidoscopic experience created with the use of glass casing throughout to create a dizzying maze of colourful plates, bowls, jugs and trinkets (pictured).
  • A trio of windows into real life in the Netherlands in the 17th century, David Tenier the Younger’s A Distillery with an Elderly Man Buying Gin and The Foot Doctor and Cornelis Bega’s The Blind Fiddler with the nigh-on photographic detail and use of light that I adore (pictured).

The scores:

Exhibits: 9/10. A true treasure trove which justifies its pedigree.

Environment: 7/10. Beautiful architecture but rooftop’s a bit of a shame.

Refreshments: 7/10. Pricey but nice to have genuinely local produce available.

Cost & Location: 10/10. Free entry and slap-bang in the city centre.

Overall Score: 8/10.

The links: