Social History

The Leeds social history collections started with an emphasis on ‘bygones’ and folk life in the 1920s. Reconstructed street displays at Abbey House were then added in the 1950s, recreating life in Victorian Leeds.

Our social history collection is particularly significant in the areas of childhood toys and games, retailing history, domestic life, musical instruments, slot machines and automata and printed ephemera.  This has resulted in a rich and wide-ranging collection of material, spanning over 100,000 items.

The emphasis for recent collecting has been material with strong local links to Leeds history and manufacture or association with Leeds people, communities and organisations, from the post- medieval period to the present day. We are particularly interested in objects with a story to tell about life in Leeds and the surrounding area.

Our extensive collections include the Ernestine Henry Chimney Sweep Collection, the Waddington archive of games and puzzles and a number of personal objects donated by Leonora Cohen.

Collection highlight – Abbey Grange dolls house

This mock Tudor style dolls house was donated to Abbey House Museum in 1948 by Miss Maude Cooper. In the 1880’s Miss Cooper spent her childhood with her family living in Abbey House and the dolls house belonged to her as a child. The initials in the inscription ’18 MC 83′ over the door are thought to be those of Miss Cooper.

Known as Abbey Grange, this style of mock Tudor house can be found in other dolls houses of the period. When the house was donated it was fully furnished with nineteenth and twentieth century furniture and at some stage it was installed with electrical lighting.

The Cooper family rented Abbey House from 1883 to 1890. Leonard Cooper was an industrialist who owned the Airedale Hematite Company in Hunslet, which manufactured pig iron for Kirkstall Forge.