Leeds nostalgia: Fascinating fairy tale fancy dress album

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More than 125 years ago, the Lord Mayor of Leeds Mr and Mrs Alf Cooke threw an extravagant fancy dress ball to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

The exclusive guest list included 190 local children, who all arrived at the party dressing up in an incredible variety of storybook themed costumes. Aleather-bound album filled with the flamboyant photos captured that evening on January 12, 1891 is on display at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall as part of the new Fairy Tales and Fantasy exhibition.

Alf Cooke was a successful printer who built a state of the art print works at Crown Point in Hunslet. Other children who attended came from some of the city’s leading business and professional families at the time. Outfits worn by those who attended included Red Riding Hood, Dick Whittington, the Arabian Nights, Cinderella the Snow Queen, a matador, and Little Lord Fauntleroy

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.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City 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.”

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