A number of objects in featured in Sounds of Our City


Sounds of Our City at Abbey House Museum tells the story of how the different musical styles and places of Leeds interact.

Discover fascinating instruments and sound equipment made in Leeds. Explore the different venues associated with music in the city over the past 200 years. Relive some of the city’s most iconic performances through the memorabilia featured.

Take a look through our virtual exhibition and get in touch with us on Facebook to share your own stories of music in Leeds!

Music in the Living Room

The first musical boxes were invented in Switzerland in 1770. These were expensive novelty toys rather than a real threat to live music. Mass-produced musical boxes with interchangeable discs arrived in the 1880s but it was the invention of sound recording that really changed music in the home.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 and the first wax cylinders of music went on sale in 1887. Edison originally thought that his invention would be used in offices for recording speech rather than for music. Emile Berliner started to sell the flat gramophone records that we recognise today in 1892. This format won out because it was cheaper to produce.

In 1910 there were between 2 million and 4 million pianos in Britain, which is about one to every ten or twenty people. If you wanted to hear music at home the easiest and cheapest way was to perform it yourself. The popularity of songs at this time was measured by sales of sheet music.

Song composed for the opening of Rounday Park in 1872

This song, titled “This is Our Opening Day” was written for the grand ceremony to open Roundhay Park to the people of Leeds in 1872. The park was originally the private grounds of the mansion owned by the Nicholson family, but in 1871 the then mayor John Barran managed to raise the money to buy it as an open space for the people of Leeds. He invited Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (third son of Queen Victoria) to officially open the park and according to the song he was greeted by “ten thousand clear voices”. This recording was made specially for exhibition with just four clear voices, those of Nina Phelps, Flo Rivington, Marcus Dickson and Ben Palmer from Leeds University School of Music.

The first verse, which you can hear recorded, is a welcome to Prince Arthur. The second verse praises the Mayor and the Town Council who are “prudent and wise.”

The third verse praises the people of Leeds (provided they are not republicans!) –
“Now success to the park, now open and free,
Success to all famed for good deeds
May this work begun let republicans see
That people are loyal in Leeds
Then shout loyal people, shout far and wide
Hurrah for our commerce and laws!”

The words of this song are perhaps not the best example of beautiful poetry. The author T. Carlton was after all probably better at his day job of Estate Agent and shorthand teacher.

1152 Club: The Dearlove Family

A talk on the Dearlove family as part of the 1152 Club, given by Kitty Ross, Curator of Leeds History at Leeds Museums & Galleries. She discusses a pair of double basses made by the Dearlove family which begins in 1848 in Leeds.

Little Nell, a ballad composed by George Linley

This haunting Victorian ballad was written by Leeds-born composer George Linley and depicts the death of Little Nell, at the end of Charles Dickens’ novel “The Old Curiosity Shop” (1841). The lyrics were written by Charlotte Young. It has been recorded for the Abbey House exhibition by Luca Vitale and Robin Forkin, students at Leeds College of Music.

The Blue Belles Quadrilles and Waltz

This was composed by J. Hopkinson of Leeds for the ‘Conservative Ladies of Leeds’. The Quadrille was type of square dance involving four couples with originated in the 18th century and the waltz was popularised in England from about 1804.

Glass Harp

Hear Kitty Ross, Curator of social history play a glass harp made by Joshua Muff, 1820.