Monday, 22 August 2016

WW1 Leeds timeline

Stephanie Webb reveals an online timeline charting key moments in Leeds' First World War history 

During the centenary of World War One, the Leeds Museums young curators group, the Preservative Party, has been committed to researching and commemorating the sacrifices made by the people of Leeds. We have created WW1 Leeds, an interactive Facebook timeline documenting the story of the city during the war.

Our research has revealed that Leeds and its people made a significant and varied contribution to the war effort both at home and overseas.

The WW1 Leeds timeline covers many different themes. One area is the military, covering recruitment and conscription and the experiences of the Leeds Rifles and Leeds Pals.

The Pals suffered terrible losses in the Battle of the Somme. On 1st July 1916, 24 officers of the Leeds Pals took their men over the tops into No Man's Land. At the end of the first day of the battle, only 17 of 900 men answered a roll call. 750 men had lost their lives and the battalion was all but decimated. Across Leeds, hundreds of grieving families closed their curtains in mourning. It is said that after the Somme, every street in the city had at least one house with its curtains drawn.

Personal War Stories

One of the aims of WW1 Leeds is to reveal the individual war stories of people from Leeds. We want to bring out the personal experiences as well as the overall events and statistics. One of the stories we follow is that of George Sanders of the Leeds Rifles. Sanders received a Victoria across for courage and leadership shown during the Battle of the Somme. Later in the war, he also earned a Military Cross and also spent some time as a prisoner of war.

Leeds and wartime industry

The timeline also covers the contributions and sacrifices that were made on the home front. Leeds was a key industrial centre, manufacturing, for example, munitions, aeroplanes, blankets and uniforms.

One of the most notable factories in Leeds was the Barnbow munitions works. Over 3 years, 36 million cartridges and over 24 million shells were produced at Barnbow. Barnbow's workforce of 16,000 people was 93% female. The so-called 'Barnbow Lasses' were well paid for their vital work, which was highly dangerous. Indeed, many of the women made the ultimate sacrifice.

During the night shift on 5 December 1916, the women in room 42 were filling 4.5 inch shells when a machine malfunctioned. A massive explosion killed 35 women. Such was the secrecy surrounding the work at Barnbow, the incident was covered up and the women were merely listed in the Yorkshire Evening Post as 'killed by accident.' It would be 6 years before the truth was revealed.

Lotherton Hall - convalescent hospital

Leeds also became home to many convalescing soldiers. Several military hospitals opened in the city, including at Beckett's Park teacher training college, which was given over to the War Office and treated 57,200 soldiers between 1914 and 1918. Country houses also became hospitals, including 2 Leeds Museums and Galleries sites. Temple Newsam housed recovering officers, whilst Colonel Gascoigne of Lotherton Hall insisted upon his property providing for other ranks.

Given the city's wide contribution to the war effort and its significant losses, it is little wonder that the announcement of the Armistice prompted mass celebrations. 40,000 people gathered at the Town Hall where fireworks were let off. Over the course of the war, from the 82,000 Leeds soldiers, 10,000 men had lost their lives.

Try out the WW1 Leeds timeline!

You can discover more wartime stories and experiences by visiting the WW1 Leeds timeline. Scroll through the years to explore the different themes. Like and follow the page to receive regular updates about centenary stories and projects on your news feed.

Why not share your own stories on the WW1 Leeds timeline? Please get in touch by posting on the page, sending a private message on Facebook, or emailing You can also connect with us on Twitter @PresParty.

Meanwhile, you'll find 'In Their Footsteps', a major temporary exhibition on WW1 Leeds, curated by the Preservative Party, over at Leeds City Museum until the end of 2016.

If you are aged between 13-24 and would like to become a youth curator, please email

Monday, 8 August 2016

Leeds Remembers: How the local community filled the museum with poppies

On 1-2 July 2016 the Brodrick Hall at Leeds City Museum was filled with poppies to remember those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, and all the lives affected by the First World War.

©D’arcy Darilmaz
Thousands of poppies cascaded from the upper seating, down onto the giant map of Leeds. These poppies were red and white, reflecting remembrance as well as peaceful resistance to war. If you look carefully, you’ll see some shamrocks too, echoing the Irish roots of many soldiers from Leeds.

©D’arcy Darilmaz
Over 45 groups from across the city made the poppies. Many of the makers were people who are living with dementia – spot the really large poppies they made! One member of Peer Support was inspired to create this beautiful embroidery:

Inkwell Arts and Groundwork Leeds got sculptural creating these beautiful clay poppies:

In the days running up to the installation packages of poppies arrived from schools, day centres and individuals. One person made this beautiful poppy, showing Private Jogendra Nath Sen. Private Sen studied at the University of Leeds and joined the Leeds Pals in 1914. He was killed on 26 May 1916, from wounds to his neck and leg after an encounter with the enemy. His friends said “he was the cleverest man in the battalion”.


Another poppy included a beautiful poem that looks at the relationship between families and remembering:

I write this poem
to all the people
who died. and protected
us and didn’t even
fus. while you
were in the          
horrifying trenches

we sat on our
benches hoping you
would be safe
and sound and
hold your

and still fighting
till the end and
not being DeaD.
hoping you will
be next to me
in befo Day
After Day

even when it was
your birthday i
made a cake
with sauce

Remember when we met
at the lake when
you bought a
fake toy. Boy was
it funny the
teddy looked

Like bugs bunny.
I would tell
safe that daddy
would be
home and
you could

play with hime
then and both
act like a
ten years old
boy. So
Me and safe are missing

From Khabeer Fusev.

As part of the process, Curator Lucy visited several groups and schools, discussing the meaning of poppies and the effect of war on Leeds. East Leeds SILC made a heart-shaped arrangement of poppies, sewn and felted by hand by the class. One student said they’d struggled with the idea of poppies and remembering war, until they realised that “remembering is just loving”.

©Kirkstall Festival

On 8 July the poppies moved the Chapter House at Kirkstall Abbey for the Kirkstall Festival.

We’d like to thank all the people from across the city, including:

Agnis Smallwood
Alexander House
Apna Day Centre
Armley Grange Day Centre
Armley Mills Close Knit Friends
Bramley Elderly Action
Bramley War Memorial
Calverlands Day Centre
Calverley Brownies
Carr Manor Community School
Castleton Primary School
Cedars Care Home
CHIME with Leeds Irish Health & Homes
Cookridge Holy Trinity CE Primary School
Crossgates Brownies
East Garforth Primary Academy
East SILC Temple Moor Partnership
Elsie Ayre
Frederick Hurdle Day Centre
Groundwork Leeds
Holt Park Day Centre
Holy Trinity Church, Meanwood
Ingram Road Primary School
Inkwell Arts – Take Over Café & Craft Café
InterACT, Church & Community Partnership
Laurel Bank Day Centre
Leeds Concord Interfaith Partnership
Little London Arts
Middlecross Day Centre
Middlecross Residential Home
Morley Library
Peer Support Service for People Living with Dementia
Pool-in-Wharfedale CE Primary School
Rothwell Primary School
Royal Armouries
St Gemma’s Day Hospice
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School
St Matthew’s CE Primary School
Suffolk Court Residential Home
West SILC at Farnley Academy
Westborough High School
Wetherby High School
Wheatfields Day Hospice
Whitecote Primary School
Wykebeck Day Centre
Zest Health for Life
… and many other anonymous donors

How to get in touch:

If you would like to contribute to the display in the future or would like them displayed near you, please email

By Lucy Moore, Projects Curator at Leeds Museums and Galleries

Friday, 5 August 2016

Appeal for stories of the 2015 Leeds Floods!

Red oblong metal plaque, reads "December 27th 2015 Flood"
Plaque commemorating the December 2015 flood, at Armley Mills

This December will be the first anniversary of the worst floods in Leeds for many years.

Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, a site heavily impacted by the floods which happened on and after Boxing Day 2015, will be hosting a community exhibition to commemorate the event at the end of the year. We are looking for your stories and pictures to complement our existing collections.

Photograph of the clean-up at Armley Mills after the floods in 1946
Previous floods such as the ‘Great Flood’ of 1866 have been recorded through the collections of Leeds Museums and Galleries, and this is something we are once again keen to do following the 2015 floods.

Share your memories of the Leeds floods!

  • Were you affected by the floods?
  • Did you take any photographs of the affected areas?
  • Would you like to share your memories of previous floods in the Leeds area?
  • Were you involved in the clean-up operation?
Particular areas of focus are around two of Leeds’ museums affected by the flood, namely Thwaite Mills Watermill in Stourton, and Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, both of which due to their location along watercourses were badly hit by the rising water.

We are also interested to hear about your experiences from other areas of Leeds, and any photographs that you may have taken of the event.

Please contact Chris Sharp, Assistant Community Curator at Thwaite Mills and Armley Mills, by emailing if you would like to be involved in the exhibition.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Giving the Leeds Ichthyosaur a Face-Lift

Something large and very blue, with a lot of issues, came into the Conservation Studio in April 2015.  Some items can be conserved in a short space of time, others need a little more time spent on them and some can be a labour of love.

The Ichthyosaur lives down in 'dinosaur alley' at the Leeds Discovery Centre (our museum store) and was initially chosen to go out on loan. Unfortunately, this did not happen but it meant that it could come in for some sorely needed conservation work.

Icthyosaur dinosaur skeleton, framed with a very blue background.
The Ichthyosaur before conservation (LEEDM.B.1843.4)

1. Paint-stripping

As you can see the background was very blue, the in-painting was noticeable and there was underlying damage. My first course of action was to strip the paint back to see what was going on! We used a steam cleaner, scalpel, a very small sander and a lot of hard work to do this.

Ichthyosaur dinosaur framed with the blue paint now removed, leaving behind a grey stone matrix and lots of old infill.
Ichthyosaur after the paint layer was removed

2. Discovering what lies beneath

Once the layer underneath the paint was revealed a number of problems were spotted. There were numerous cracks, missing pieces of bone that had been damaged in antiquity and various types of materials had been used to infill different areas.

Once this was documented the work could begin on stabilising and repainting the fossil.

Ichthyosaur dinosaur framed with bright white filled in areas.
Filling all the gaps
3. Filling in the cracks

A conservation grade type of Poly-filler™ was used to fill in the cracks and stabilise the fossil. This can easily be carved and sandpapered down lie flush with the surface.

Once these areas had been in filled and left to dry the surrounding matrix needed to be coated with a paint layer.

Ichthyosaur dinosaur framed with the background now painted a neutral grey colour.
The background is painted

4. In-painting and colour-matching

After two coats the in filled sections of the fossil needed to be in-painted.  This needs a steady hand and a good eye for colour-matching. We tend to use pigments rather than paints, but it is dependent on the material.

The rule is six feet away you do not notice but six inches up you can clearly see the in-painted section.

Ichthyosaur dinosaur framed with the frame stained mahogany.  The finished article.
The Ichthyosaur is finished!
5. The finishing touches

Nearly there, just the frame needed varnishing and a deep mahogany was chosen to complement the blue grey paint.

I hope you'll agree the finished article, which has been in conservation for one year and three months, looks a lot better than when it started its journey with us.

Emma Bowron, Conservator

(All photographs within this blog were taken for Leeds Museums and Galleries and are licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA)

Quest for Information on a Shoemaker’s Last

The fairytale ending to my brief time at Abbey House Museum

Holly Roberts, work placement student,
pictured at Leeds Discovery Centre

As a placement student I have had a chance to experience a brilliant range of aspects of heritage and curatorial work. But one thing which has consistently impressed me (and no, despite his wow-factor, it is not the striking juvenile Giant Squid, who hangs, impressively from the rafters of the Leeds Discovery Centre store) but it is simply the unfolding of the history of objects through research. 

I particularly like researching very mundane objects (yes, you can sigh) because often, paradoxically, they have the most intriguing and familiar stories to tell.

In line with the upcoming Fairytale exhibition (at Abbey House) I was to work on the Elves and the Shoemaker story, which involved getting hands on with a fairly enormous plethora of shoemaking tools and equipment. It was a fairly rusty, dirty iron shoe last buried amongst many other nondescript lasts and other shoemaking equipment which grabbed my attention. 

This Last, however was branded in enormous letters 'LION'. After a clean-up I thought to investigate, where did this giant hunk of rusty metal come from and what life had it had?
Lion Foundry shoe last
(Photograph by Holly Roberts for Leeds Museums and Galleries )

From Glasgow with love
To find anything at all from the word LION was of course going to be a struggle, but after a while, estimations of manufacturing dates and variation of the name I discovered THE LION IRON FOUNDRY. The Lion Iron Foundry was established in 1880 at Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow, by the firm of Jackson, Brown & Hudson. 

The foundry went from strength to strength, employing one twentieth of the population of the Burgh of Kirkintilloch by 1910 but its earlier works in the late 1800s were less impressive, manufacturing railings, gates and other largely mundane items, most likely when our unassuming last was created. Into the twentieth century The Lion Foundry began to take on more ambitious projects such as bandstands, tram and bus shelters. Developing a fine reputation from 1900-1914 the foundry was involved in large constructional ironwork projects in cities all over the UK.

The Surprise
County Arcade, Leeds, decorated for the Royal Visit 1908

On further investigation, quite poignantly on the final day of my placement, I discovered that the Lion Iron Foundry, with its humble beginnings in the wilds of Scotland had a very impressive Leeds link! What are the chances? The Lion Foundry supplied and erected the highly ornamental roof trusses, domes and balcony railings of the incredibly beautiful and ornate Leeds County Arcade. 

As reported in the Kirkintilloch Herald of 29 November 1899, ‘A BIG ORDER – We are gratified to learn that the Lion Foundry Company have been successful in securing a large English order that will ensure a briskness in certain departments for months to come. It is an arcade for Leeds, in which ornamental castings will play a large part.’ To my utter surprise, my rusty old shoe last had led me to uncover a hidden history!

So on the very last day of my exciting and fulfilling placement with Abbey House Museum the faith in my rusty old iron last had paid off. This hunk of Glaswegian metal, sat on the desk in front of me had a story! A fantastic and very surprising link to a significant part of Leeds heritage. 

Even the most unremarkable of items, lost in the sea of an extraordinary collection, are truly worth exploring.

More information on The Lion Iron Foundry can be found on the East Dunbartonshire Leisure & Culture Trust website 

By Holly Roberts, Work Placement student from Lincoln University 

(All photographs within this blog were taken for Leeds Museums and Galleries and are licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Temple Newsam House and the Local Community

Placement student Liu Liu shadowed Assistant Community Curator Helen Pratt and learned about the work she does to help groups and the local community make use of Temple Newsam House

My role in Temple Newsam was divided into observation and interviews. The first time I was involved was at an event called Pirate Shell Treasure Hunt, with a family learning group of children and their parents. Helen led the tour and told stories about the house, while the children found the shells. During their visit, children’s interest in the house and its history grew.

Connections with the local community

I suddenly understood what Helen told me about building connection with communities. Although those people were living close to Temple Newsam House, they might not have had the chance to get to know the history of the place. There now are activities that can bring them together and provide them with opportunities to spend time there. 

A creative writing group finds inspiration from the
Visioning the Landscape exhibition 

Becoming 'hosts' as well as visitors

I also attended the visits from creative writing groups to the Visioning the Landscape exhibition. These groups consist of people of a variety of ages, who are interested in arts and writing poems. After this tour, the members write poems about their feelings and thoughts on the house and the exhibition. 

Their poems are displayed in different places of the house for other visitors to read. By creating poems, they become not only visitors but also hosts. This type of co-creation can encourage deeper audience and community engagement. 

What does 'community engagement' mean?

I had always believed that people took part in a group either due to personal interest or because they were being paid. I learned that this is not the case. For a community or interest group, the more important thing is that there is someone they can trust and be familiar with, especially in the areas of arts and heritage. 

Sometimes people think art is far away from their life and they cannot understand it. However, if there are friendly people encouraging them to join in, people are more likely to get involved. This is the way that Assistant Community Curator Helen Pratt has been working in community engagement.

The placement in the Temple Newsam House deepened my understanding of audience and community engagement. I have seen the power of word of mouth and the importance of building connections between community and the sites. People are attracted by the history of Temple Newsam and that history, as well as the chance to work with different people can have a beneficial effect on their lives.