Six of the Best: Hidden Treasures

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Leeds is a awash with historical artefacts and strange object d’art, from ornate carvings to 100-year-old biscuits. Neil Hudson takes a look at half a dozen of these wondrous heirlooms

PETER PAN STATUE, ROUNDHAY PARK

The statue of a Peter Pan-like figure, surrounded by animals and called Spirit of the Woods, resides in Canal Gardens at Roundhay Park, above.

It was originally placed near the entrance to the park but was repeatedly vandalised. It stood there until it was moved in 1987. The figure, made of lead and weighing half a ton, cost £500 when it was bought in 1957 in a London auction by a Leeds parks officer, who hoped it would become a popular attraction.

In 2011, the statue was given a new flute (made from a trumpet), thanks to the Friends of Roundhay Park.

MINERS’ TRIBUTE, ALLERTON BYWATER

A biscuit was among those handed to British troops during the First World War. But they were notoriously dry and hard to eat. One savvy soldier decided his was so inedible, he would use it instead of writing paper to pen a letter back home.

Sent from the trenches in 1914, it survives still tucked in its original wrapper at Leeds Discovery Centre and was addressed to a Mrs Maxwell of Meanwood, believed to be the sender’s mum. Written on one side in blue ink is the light-hearted message: “Christmas dinner in the Army. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and please put a bit of butter on. From Max.”

OWLS OF LEEDS, CIVIC HALL

The Leeds Owls are famous as a symbols of the city. Our file picture shows them being cleaned on July 29, 1973.

Kevin Maher, 26, of Manchester is pictured at work gilding the Civic Hall Owls. Kevin worked for Clean Walls of Manchester. The owls are covered

in golf leaf and stand 7ft high. They also appear on the city’s coat of arms.

They were taken from the coat of arms belonging to Sir John Savile (1556-1630), the first Alderman of Leeds. He lived at Howley Hall, near Birstall, which is now a ruin.

THE MUMMY, CITY MUSEUM

Leeds City Museum houses a 3,000-year-old mummy called Nesyamun, also known as ‘the Leeds Mummy’.

Nesyamun was a priest, incense bearer

and scribe at the ancient Egyptian temple

complex at Karnak and died around 1100BC. His body was preserved and entombed ready for the after-life.

It was acquired by members of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, who bought it from an Italian trader. The artefact arrived at the Leeds City Museum in 1823 and is one the best preserved in the UK.

ELEPHANT ARMOUR, ROYAL ARMOURIES

This elephant armour dates from around 1600 and was used in India.

It is made up of 8,450 separate iron plates interwoven with fabric. It has been estimated it would have weighed about 160kg and as such is the heaviest suit of armour in the world. It also came with a pair of tusk armour-piercing swords. It is on display at The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds Dock, along with an armoury of other weapons, both real and fantastical - some of the swords in their collection were used in The Lord of th Rings films.

100-YEAR-OLD BISCUIT, DISCOVERY CENTRE

A biscuit was among those handed to British troops during the First World War. But they were notoriously dry and hard to eat. One savvy soldier decided his was so inedible, he would use it instead of writing paper to pen a letter back home.

Sent from the trenches in 1914, it survives still tucked in its original wrapper at Leeds Discovery Centre and was addressed to a Mrs Maxwell of Meanwood, believed to be the sender’s mum. Written on one side in blue ink is the light-hearted message: “Christmas dinner in the Army. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and please put a bit of butter on. From Max.”

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