Abbey House Museum is a family-friendly museum located in the Kirkstall area of Leeds. It isn’t free to visit for most people, however, it is cheap. Plus you have the ‘free to visit’ Kirkstall Abbey over the road which was so much better than I was expecting. Both places are lovely to visit together on a day out. You don’t have to prebook either which is always a bonus if you’re not very organised.
There is free parking near the museum although it isn’t a massive car park so get there early.
Abbey House Museum Review
Abbey House Museum is housed in the gatehouse of the ruined 12th century Kirkstall Abbey. It is a Grade II listed building and it is located around 3 miles north-west of Leeds city centre. It first opened as a museum back in 1927.
On the ground floor, there is a fantastic recreated Victorian street. There’s plenty to wander in and look around. It also has a few small ‘alleys’ with more to see and explore. It is said to be haunted which certainly adds to the atmosphere.
It is the 19th century equivalent of a modern high street. The poorer residential district of Abbey Fold is off this and it looks at life and death in Victorian times.
Upstairs there are childhood galleries with displays of toys, games, dolls and more. The museum has a new exhibition every year that is inspired by a theme from the museum’s collection. They also run family-friendly events including days where there are costumed people wandering the Victorian streets.
While we were there we spotted a few displays upstairs that needed coins. They date back to Victorian times so you need to purchase some old fashioned penny farthings from their vending machine. You can then play or watch the various displays that are mostly automatons. They also have some games where you send a ball around a maze and in the past, people may have won money. I think we got 6 old pennies for £1.
There is a good cafe on-site where we stopped for some hot lunch. They were slightly overdoing the covid precautions though as it was freezing cold as both the front and back doors were open. Bit of a shame when you’re trying to keep warm. It also got very busy so make sure you visit early on. There is also a cafe at the abbey.
Kirkstall Abbey Review
As mentioned above you can also combine your day out with a trip to Kirkstall Abbey. There is also some parkland here that you can have a wander around. There is also a children’s playground next to the car park and a tennis court.
Although this is ruined like the vast majority of the abbey’s in the UK it is a lot bigger than I was expecting. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it is for free. Although I have heard a rumour that they are considering a charge for non-Leeds residents. The charge may be as much as £8 which seems a shame so visit for free while you can.
Monks first began using the abbey back in 1152 on land that was gifted to them. They flourished at the abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Today, it is one of the country’s most well-preserved monasteries.
As you can see by the photos it’s a really beautiful structure. What got us was the sheer height of it. The section in the photo below is really tall, you can’t tell by the photo so you will have to take my word for it. Apparently, this used to be a through route to Leeds when horse and carriages were in use. You can even see where they’ve since replaced the stones at the entrance.
There are also some other smaller ruined parts and unlike English Heritage ruins you are requested to not climb on any of the walls. It only took us around 20 minutes to wander around so it was totally worth it for free but I don’t think I’d be happy paying more than £2 per person to look around again.
All in all, it was a lovely winter’s day out and I’d imagine that you could spend even longer there during nice weather.
FAQ & Further Information
Address: Abbey Walk, Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH, West Yorkshire. Phone: 0113 378 4079
Category – Museum and Abbey – Indoors and Outdoors – Suitable for all ages
What are the ticket prices?
Museum – Adult £6, child £3. There is a reduction for those with a Leeds card. Holders are some cards are free (see website). Family tickets and other pricing options are available
What are the main facilities and things to do?
Museum with an indoor recreated Victorian street, children’s galleries and penny arcade machines. Plus a ruined abbey you can explore. There are toilets and a cafe.
When are they open?
The museum, abbey and cafes are closed on a Monday. They are open from Tuesday until Sunday for most of the year. Please see their websites for up to date information.
Is there food available?
There is a cafe at both the museum and the abbey.
Is there parking?
There is a free car park.
Are they dog friendly?
Only assistance dogs are permitted in the museum. Dogs are allowed on a lead within the enclosed area of the ruins