Autumnal treats in store at leading Leeds venues

Ey up Leeds! As we head into autumn, we’re uncovering some real conkers at Leeds Museums & Galleries

Promoted by Leeds Museums and Galleries
Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:24 am
In medieval monasteries such as Kirkstall Abbey people used herbs to help the body heal itself
In medieval monasteries such as Kirkstall Abbey people used herbs to help the body heal itself

There’s plenty to uncover this season across the city’s eight attractions – here’s our guide to what’s happening.

Medieval medicines

In medieval monasteries such as Kirkstall Abbey people used herbs to help the body heal itself. Some of the herbs we know today were grown for specific purposes.

The Gascoigne Nun at Lotherton is a painting with a pair of spaniels that appear to be floating on the canvas

Mint, for example, was thought to be good for your stomach and helped to ward off fleas. Delicate chamomile flowers could be used in digestive infusions that also combatted flatulence. And lesser known comfrey was used to help set broken bones!

Other treatments not involving herbs included bloodletting, which was carried out several times a year. It was thought that being bled would restore balance to the body, sharpen the senses and promote longevity (it was also believed to produce a musical voice and quenched sexual desire)!

Bonkers Burmantofts

In the Victorian Streets of Abbey House Museum, you will find the famous Burmantofts Pottery shop. But look closely and you’ll spot a slightly peculiar addition adorning the shelves amongst the ornate vases and flowerpot stands.

These gruesome girandoles at Temple Newsam tell the story of Diana and Actaeon

An ashtray, abstractly shaped into a body, with a disturbingly realistic old man’s head sitting at the top of the ‘body’. You have to see it to believe it. And you can, as we have a whole set of the creepy things in our collection – in different colours! Head to the Burmantofts shop in the Victorian streets to see him on display.

The 3,000-mile butterfly

You might not associate butterflies with crisp autumn days but in North America it’s about this time of year that the Monarch butterfly begins its 3,000 mile migration. They fly south to spend the winter in lovely warm Mexico.

The distance is mind-boggling but what’s really special about these delicate creatures is that they only do it once in their lifetime, so they have never been taught, nor had any practice, before making the mammoth journey across the US. You can see the Monarch and more in the Life on Earth gallery at Leeds City Museum.

Pictures in pictures

Step inside the splendid Edwardian hall at Lotherton and you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything was perfectly in order. However, in the corner of the main hall you will find a slightly odd portrait on display that often goes unnoticed by visitors.

The Gascoigne Nun is a painting with two additional subjects that appear to be floating on the canvas. A pair of spaniels! It is thought that at some point the canvas was used to practice on and only the dogs were only found when the portrait went into conservation and was cleaned up to reveal them.

Ghoulish goings on

Temple Newsam has long been associated with ghostly tales of past residents who creep through the corridors in the dead of night.

With Halloween on the horizon, dare you explore the haunted mansion house, still occupied by Mary Ingram or the Blue Lady as she’s commonly known? There are many spooky objects to track down during your visit including some gruesome girandoles in the Picture Gallery. These highly ornate candleholders tell the story of Diana and Actaeon.

Actaeon was caught spying on Diana (the goddess of the hunt) and was turned into a deer and mauled to death by his own hounds. It’s certainly a conversation starter for your dinner guests…

Winter warmers

Did you know that textiles were big business in Leeds, and there is a whole gallery dedicated to them in Leeds Industrial Museum? Who knew they could be a source of inspiration for your winter wardrobe!

Our favourite number is a woollen overcoat in the Tempest Gallery. It’s particularly special because the cloth was made right on site at Armley Mills. It’s part of a long tradition of making heavier woollen garments which stretches back to the mills illustrious owner Benjamin Gott, clothing the British army during the Napoleonic Wars.

Autumnal shades

If industrial history floats your boat then a trip to Thwaite Watermill is a must. Did you know that the tiny island has its very own orchard? Not to mention heaps of outdoor space and stunning woodlands where you can experience all the changing colours of autumn.

For more details of everything that’s happening this autumn, visit the Leeds Museums & Galleries website at