REVEALED: The flamboyant fairy tale costumes donned by Victorian children in Leeds 125 years ago

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Forget Elsa from Frozen and Buzz Lightyear - these images taken at an extravagant fancy dress ball in Leeds 125 years ago show that in Victorian times, it was flamboyant fairy tale costumes that were all the rage.

This amazing photo album is filled with incredible pictures taken on January 12, 1891 at a fancy dress silver wedding anniversary celebration for the then Mayor and Mayoress of Leeds, Mr and Mrs Alf Cooke.

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

The Lady Mayoress of Leeds at the fancy dress ball

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party The Lady Mayoress of Leeds at the fancy dress ball

More than 190 children were invited to the ball, all dressed in a range of impressive storybook outfits which included Red Riding Hood, Dick Whittington, the Arabian Nights, Cinderella and the Snow Queen.

More unusual costumes included a matador, three particularly unfortunate boys who were dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy and the inspirational Constance J Farrar, who came dressed as a girl graduate – still an unconventional aspiration for girls at that time.

Some of the Mayor and Mayoress’s ten children also feature in the album, most notably Alf Cooke junior, who copied his dad and dressed as The Miniature Mayor.

Now experts at Leeds Museums and Galleries are asking for help to tell the stories behind some of the fabulous costumed characters before the images are revealed in full during an exhibition in Leeds in the New Year.

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

As so many of the costumes are inspired by fairy tales, the album is set to feature in Abbey House Museum’s new Fairy Tales and Fantasy exhibition from January 21, which will look at the history and reality behind some of the most popular stories of all time.

Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of social history said: This incredible album of photos is a source of delight and entertainment, but also must contain a wealth of untold stories about Leeds and the people who have lived here over the years.

“There is scope for a lot of future research to try and track the lives of these children who were photographed enjoying themselves back in 1891 and it would be fantastic to hear from anyone who might have more information of these youngsters and their families.”

Alf Cooke was a successful printer who built a state-of-the-art print works at Crown Point in Hunslet. Other children invited to the party had surnames that reflected the leading business and professional families at the time.

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891, including Alf Cook junior, as the Mini Lord Mayor

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891, including Alf Cook junior, as the Mini Lord Mayor

Coun Brian Selby, the council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “These pictures are a really special window into what life was like for children in Leeds all those years ago and it’s incredible to imagine what this unique fancy dress ball must have been like for those who attended.

“Generations of children in Leeds have enjoyed fairy tales through the ages and it will be fascinating to explore more of the history behind them at this new exhibition next year.”

To view the whole album online, visit https://flic.kr/s/aHskNd8Cyo

Anyone with more information about the photos can email discovery.centre@leeds.gov.uk

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

For more details about Fairy Tales and Fantasy, visit http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Fairy-Tales.aspx

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Aldred Cook, Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1891, who hosted the fancy dress ball

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Aldred Cook, Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1891, who hosted the fancy dress ball

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party

Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

Lord Mayor's fancy dress party Children in costume, photographed at the fancy dress ball in 1891

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