Abbey House Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Abbey House Museum

Leeds, England, United Kingdom

A living history museum, Abbey House recreates authentic Victorian streets to reflect 19th century life.

Lily Johnson

07 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Abbey House Museum

Abbey House Museum in Leeds is a living history museum which takes visitors into the very heart of 19th century life. Housed in the building which once stood as the gatehouse for the 12th century Kirkstall Abbey, the museum now contains a host of re-created houses and shops designed to reflect 19th century life.

Abbey House Museum history

Kirkstall Abbey was founded in around 1152, yet following the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII fell to disrepair and eventual ruin. Its gatehouse however was turned into a dwelling house and received renovation over the years, including a 15th/16th century wing and early 20th century additions. At one point it operated as a farmhouse, and at another was the home of the Butler family, the owners of Kirkstall Forge, before in 1926 being purchased by Leeds City Council.

In July 1927, Abbey House Museum was opened in the gatehouse as a bygones and folklore museum, and in the 1950s three Victorian streets were installed – Abbey Fold in 1954, Harewood Square in 1955 and Stephen Harding Gate in 1958.

By 2001 it had received a vast refurbishment, with new shops and houses to explore.

Abbey House Museum today

The museum’s authentic Victorian streets afford visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and smells of 19th century Leeds. Providing a hands-on experience that is particularly family friendly, the Abbey House Museum includes a number of galleries, including one devoted to childhood as well as information about the history of Kirkstall Abbey itself. Each year the museum also holds a new exhibition inspired by its collection and a number of events run throughout.

Alongside the museum guests may stop for refreshment at the Gatehouse Cafe whilst admiring the imposing Kirkstall Abbey ruins across the road.

Getting to Abbey House Museum

Abbey House Museum is situated in the village of Kirkstall in Leeds on the A65, and there is a large free carpark next to the museum on Abbey Walk. The nearest train stations are Kirkstall Forge and Headingley, both 1 mile away, while the 33, 34 and 757 buses all stop outside of Kirkstall Abbey, a short walk to the museum.