<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today click here

Lisa Byrne - how macabre museums are well worth a visit during the summer holidays

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 July 2017

Lisa Byrne

Lisa Byrne


A dose of horror helps to entertain the little ones during the long summer break.

It’s every parent’s dilemma. How do you fill the long, summer holidays without being driven demented by your little darlings and without the local adoption agency on speed dial! Well, if like me, you’re not a fan of shoving your child in front of the TV or some computing contraption, and it happens to be lashing rain outside, why not drag them to one of this county’s many outstanding museums? They won’t complain about being bored again (well, not for a few hours anyway).

Many of our museums are strangely verging on the macabre, and there’s nothing children like more than being scared, especially if they compare their standard of life with the not so fabulous ‘good old days’. My nine-year-old daughter Brontë doesn’t know she’s born, or so she readily told me after visiting the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds. Hailing from a medical family, I was thrilled to discover that a unique building of this kind tells such a graphic but fascinating story of how health, science and medicine have evolved over the centuries.

My young companion was in awe of the tough life before surgery, being particularly interested in the virtual tour of life on the streets of Leeds in 1842 which told the story of poor old Hannah Dyson, one of around 23,000 children working in factories in that year alone, often for 12 hours a day, six days a week. The young girl underwent a gruelling operation after getting her leg stuck in machinery and unfortunately died on the operating theatre.

If that wasn’t bad enough we were also informed the museum building was first opened in 1861 as a purpose-built Leeds Union Workhouse, a harsh home for the destitute, only merging with St James’s Hospital in 1945. I know I am in touch with my spiritual side, but I felt quite overwhelmed by the museum’s melancholy atmosphere, as if the ghosts of the workhouse were still around us. My poor husband found it so overbearing he had to leave and sit in the car.

A few weeks later I took Brontë to the Castle Museum in York. Now, I am a self-confessed history addict but even I occasionally find this museum slightly eerie. I can just about cope with the amazing exhibitions recreating centuries of history, but it’s when I get to the Victorian Street Kirkgate that I start to feel disconcerted. Walking through the cobbled lanes past authentic York businesses, a school room, police cell and Hansom cab, took me back centuries.

However, by far the most chilling part of the museum is the Castle Prison complete with original cells which once housed notorious murderers and thieves, including the legendary highwayman Dick Turpin. The castle has been a site of justice and imprisonment for around 1,000 years and is truly spooktacular. Unbelievably, a number of people, with the museum’s permission, have chosen to spend a night in the cells.

A few years ago, radio DJ Dougie Weake and a colleague stayed in the same cell that Dick Turpin spent his last few hours before being paraded to the gallows. Talking of the harrowing experience, Dougie said: ‘It was strange as it was deathly, deathly quiet. Every so often you hear a little noise, no matter what it is and you’re fully awake again as you’re not sure what’s going on.’

He added: ‘Then at 4.30am there was a definite noise which woke me up and then, whether it was my imagination, I felt the room go colder. It sounded a bit like a crackle of interference on a radio but more rapid.’ A shaken Dougie said he would never repeat the experience. ‘The history of this room is phenomenal. It’s been great to do it, but I wouldn’t want to do it again to be quite honest!’

So, if your little darlings are more fragile then maybe a trip to the local art gallery or taking the waters at Harrogate Turkish Baths might be a better excursion option. Thankfully, my daughter has inherited my love of the macabre - next stop York Dungeons.

More from People

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tom suggests some radical changes to the calendar to save us all from the misery of February

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Celebrated playwright Bryony Lavery has two plays opening in the UK this month: an adaptation of Brighton Rock at York Theatre Royal and a revival of her successful 1998 play, Frozen, in the West End. Tony Greenway meets her before curtain up

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Local entrepreneur raises a cup of decaf to her East Leeds roots with Jo Haywood

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

It could be a very happy new year for Tom, if he can remember how to access his virtual fortune

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

How a bespoke investment portfolio could benefit you in the long and short term.

Read more
Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hellenia are now selling Greenselect ® Phytosome® - a weight loss supplement that can help you with you get back into shape for the New Year.

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It’s been an action packed year in Yorkshire, how much of it can you remember?

Read more
Monday, December 18, 2017

Richard Darn winds back the clock to a wartime Christmas when Yorkshire became ‘bomb alley’

Read more
Friday, December 15, 2017

Roger Federer goes one better than Tom, but has the Swiss tennis ace ever discovered an unlikely link between Yorkshire and Australia?

Read more
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Actor David Leonard has made an art form out of being villainous in Berwick Kaler’s annual pantomime at the York Theatre Royal. Tony Greenway meets him

Read more
Friday, December 1, 2017

A self-taught photographer records fans’ experience during magical time at Bradford City Football Club

Read more
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Yorkshire landscape has inspired artists and writers for centuries and now the farmers who have sculpted the land are the subjects of an exhibition.

Read more
Yorkshire Dales
Great British Holidays advert link

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Yorkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Property Search