IT IS one of the top ten visitor attractions across the whole of Yorkshire, with almost half a million people passing through its gates over the last year.
Lotherton, with its historic hall and popular Wildlife World, is situated within a stunning Edwardian country house and grounds, north of Leeds.
It is 50 years since it first became a public museum, and the Aberford estate is celebrating its landmark anniversary and unique story with a nostalgic blast for visitors and people living nearby.
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Lotherton remains one of the favourite destinations in the city, with 480,000 visitors in the 12 months up to April 2019.
The aristocrats who called it home for generations, handed it over to the people of Leeds on 6 August, 1969.
Dionne Matthews, learning and access officer at Lotherton Hall, said it was a date which changed the history of the city forever, shaping its legacy for the next half a century.
Ms Matthews said: “Lotherton is looking back at how the estate became a key part of the local community and at the ongoing work which has made it such a popular attraction.
“Visitors will also have the chance to find out more about some of the estate's newest residents, with a talk on the feeding and conservation of Lotherton's colony of rare Humboldt penguins.
“We are delighted to see so many Leeds residents enjoying our special birthday celebration. We invited people living in the LS25 area to join us. They are securing a legacy for Lotherton for the next 50 years and beyond.”
It was August 1969 when Sir Alvary Gascoigne, the last private owner of the cherished estate, gifted Lotherton, helping it to become one of the city's most popular and beautiful attractions for generations to come.
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Today it is home to the Fashion Galleries and the Wildlife World attraction, which conserves an extensive collection of endangered bird species and animals, including penguins, flamingos and a tapir.
A new exhibition curated by members of the community, will reveal more about the last members of the Gascoigne family and why they made the decision to hand Lotherton over.
Titled End of an Era, the exhibition includes letters written by Sir Alvary to his mother and father during the Second World War and includes a letter describing a private meeting of Sir Alvary with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in 1943.
Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council's executive member for the environment and active lifestyles, added: "Lotherton holds a very special place in the heritage of our city and the story of how it has been embraced by the people of Leeds since first opening its doors, is a fascinating one.
"It is a fitting tribute that the estate's unique history that this event will be led by members of the local community, who have played such an important role in Lotherton's continued success."
Leeds Museums and Galleries welcomed a record number of visitors over the past year.
Statistics drawn together from the city’s nine council-run sites show an astonishing 1,698,640 people came to take in a spectacular array of exhibitions and displays between April 2018 and April 2019, with 480,000 of them at Lotherton.
The impressive figure is the service’s highest ever, representing a huge increase of approximately 23 per cent on last year’s numbers, when around 1.3m people visited much-loved locations including Temple Newsam, Lotherton, Kirkstall Abbey, Thwaite Watermill, Abbey House Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum, Leeds City Museum and Leeds Art Gallery.