Step back in time and wander through the enchanting streets, shops and houses and experience life as a Victorian. As a fun, family-friendly and interactive museum, Abbey House Museum is a great day out for all the family. On special event days people in traditional Victorian costume wander the recreated Victorian Streets. Visit Stephen Harding Gate, the 19th century equivalent of a modern high street, for some old fashioned retail therapy. You can even take a break in the Hark to Rover Inn, a recreated model of a Victorian drinking house! The poorer residential district of Abbey Fold examines life and death in Victorian times. Compare the warm comfortable home of the successful pawnbroker with the chilly premises of the undertakers. Wonder at the displays showing rare and interesting 19th Century toys, games and dolls in the shop on Harewood Square - you can even take your place for class at the local Methodist Sunday school! Have a wander around our lovely garden and cross over the road to see the stunning Kirkstall Abbey.
Henry de Lacy (1070, Halton, – 1123), Lord of the manor of Pontefract, 2nd Lord of Bowland, promised to dedicate an abbey to the Virgin Mary should he survive a serious illness. He recovered and agreed to give the Abbot of Fountains Abbey land at Barnoldswick in the West Riding of Yorkshire (now in Lancashire) on which to found a daughter abbey. Abbot Alexander with twelve Cistercian monks from Fountains went to Barnoldswick and after demolishing the existing church attempted to build the abbey on Henry de Lacy's land. They stayed for six years but found the place inhospitable. Abbot Alexander set about finding a more suitable place for the abbey and came across a site in the heavily wooded Aire Valley occupied by hermits. Alexander sought help from de Lacy who was sympathetic and helped acquire the land from William de Poitou. The monks moved from Barnoldswick to Kirkstall displacing the hermits, some of whom joined the abbey, the rest being paid to move. The buildings were mostly completed between 1152 when the monks arrived in Kirkstall and the end of Alexander's abbacy in 1182. Millstone Grit for building came from Bramley Fall on the opposite side of the river. The abbey is a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument. There is a new visitor centre with interactive exhibits which illustrates the history of the abbey and the lives of the monks. Entry to the Abbey itself is via the visitor centre – free of charge, but with a donation box. Occasionally, guided tours are available (free of charge).
The majority of the galleries, Victorian street and special exhibitions are fully accessible. Please note that there are cobbled streets and some narrow spaces in the Victorian Streets. Seating is available around the museum and in the café. The lift to the second floor is available through the Victorian street which has capacity for one wheelchair at a time. There are accessible toilets in main entrance foyer and shop in the Museum. Facilities in the accessible toilets include an emergency alarm, a fire alarm with a flashing light and a baby change unit. This toilet is not RADAR key operated. A wheelchair is available from the museum entrance and shop to borrow on your visit. Entry to the museum is free of charge for carers. Guide and assistance dogs are welcome and dog bowls are available at the front entrance. An induction loop is in place in the entrance foyer and shop. Touch tours can be arranged with two weeks’ notice for individuals and small groups. Call +44 (0)113 2305492 to book. Kirkstall Abbey, including the visitor centre is all located at ground level. The visitor centre is fully accessible and so are most of the grounds. Please note that Kirkstall Abbey is a heritage site and some areas of the grounds are cobbled and/or uneven.
Location : Abbey Walk, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH
Transport: Headingley (National Rail) 1 mile. Bus routes : 33, 33a and 757 stop outside.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £4.00; Concessions £3.20; Children £2.00.
Tel: 0113 3784079