I’ve been wanting to visit the recently reopened Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds, West Yorkshire for a while now. It had a four-million-pound redevelopment and reopened back in 2021.
Thackray Museum of Medicine Review
I think after seeing how much money they’d spent I was expecting way too much of the museum. In the end, it was a bit disappointing which it really pains me to say. It wasn’t all bad though as it certainly had its positives.
The two main positives were the cafe and the Victorian recreated ‘Disease street’. The cafe, although limited with food choices was a really nice modern space. It was clean and well run by what seemed to be a one-man band. He was efficient and friendly which was certainly a bonus.
We were at the museum from 10 am until just before 2 pm. This included drinks and a snack, followed by a walk around all of the museum. Then a leisurely lunch and one final walk around Disease street. You could easily visit the museum in an hour though or spend much longer if your kids want to join in with some of the activities.
You start your visit in a room with a video playing of a young girl. She tells us about how her life is very much different to ours and it is then up to us to spin a wheel. This then chooses you a character and you pick up a card for that character. There are then 6 boxes in the recreated street where you pop your card in and it reveals facts about your character. This was excellent and really interesting. It was so good that’s why we went around a second time after our lunch.
The recreated street is excellent. There are rooms to peer and walk-in showing life for the reasonably well off and the not so well off. Our first character mucked out for a living and our second character was the local priest. It was really interesting finding out about them and their lives.
The information was presented in ways that made you want to read more. There were not only realistic sounds playing but also realistic smells, especially of the slaughterhouse. Don’t rush around as there is lots to spot that you won’t see if you don’t spend some time looking.
At the end of this, you return your card and spin the wheel to find out the fate of your character. We ended up reading all of them as it was really interesting.
Next came the autopsy room. You sit in an autopsy theatre with a wooden bench ‘stained’ with blood in front of you. A video then plays which recreates an operation on a girl age 11. You don’t see any gore but it’s pretty graphic audio-wise. My son age 8 was a bit freaked out. The patient has to have her leg removed while she was awake, you can imagine! There were a few things to look at in this room and it was certainly another interesting part of the visit.
We then moved down a corridor with a few things to see and a few things to do but my son didn’t want to take part. You then enter a room where you can learn all about bacteria. It does teach you that not all bacteria are bad but as you feel the need to be sanitising and wearing a mask it was hard to believe. My son found little to interest him so we moved on.
It was now time to go upstairs and I’m afraid this is where we felt let down by our visit. After visiting Disease street and the operating room everything else failed to interest us. The displays were mostly just displays with nothing to hold our interest. There are some things to do which I will mention below but it all just felt a bit ‘clinical’.
They do have an exhibition we didn’t go in as it’s a 1970’s style sexual health clinic. Looking at all the visitors there we didn’t see anyone with kids old enough to take a look around. Upstairs there is a LEGO room where kids can draw their own robot and then construct it using LEGO. This is a nice idea and my son enjoyed this.
There’s also a room with a few optical illusions and you can have a go at bandaging a hand and a foot. There were also a few more exhibitions to look at. Personally when you have something as impressive as Disease street you need to follow that through more in the rest of the museum. I understand that’s more cost though which they probably don’t have.
Thackray Museum of Medicine FAQ & Further Information
Address: 141 Beckett St, Harehills, Leeds LS9 7LN, West Yorkshire Phone: 0113 244 4343
Category – Museum – Indoors – Suitable for children of school age
What are the ticket prices?
Adult £11.95, child 5-16 £8,95, under 5s are free. Family tickets are available. Once you have purchased your ticket you can then return as much as you like for free over the next 12 months.
What are the main facilities and things to do?
Museum looking at the history of all things medical including a recreated Victorian street. There are toilets and a cafe.
When are they open?
They are open almost all year round. Please visit their website for up-to-date information.
Is there food available?
There is a cafe serving a limited choice of hot and cold food and drinks.
Is there parking?
There is a parking on-site, charges apply.
Are they dog friendly?
Only assistance dogs are permitted.