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.

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.

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