Recent days out

A model of an armoured elephant at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds

Although it’s currently the bleak midwinter – and I mean bleak, with sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures last week and Storm Isha this week – we have managed a few days out. Some of these were in the first week of the year, as our eight-year-old didn’t go back to the school until the following week.

Here’s where we’ve been:

Manchester Science & Industry Museum

A photo of Stephen Hawking's wheelchair, currently on display at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester

The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester is somewhere that we typically end up at least once a year. This time was mainly for the Food, Poo and You exhibition, which features content from the presenters of Operation Ouch (including Dr Chris, writer of Ultra-Processed People). It didn’t take much convincing our eight-year-old to go to an exhibition about poo, and it’s well presented. Just be aware that, whilst the rest of the museum is free, this is a paid-for exhibition and you’re advised to pre-book. My wife happened to be working that day and so I expect we’ll be going back before it finishes in June, after which it’ll probably go to the Science Museum in London.

Also there at the moment is Prof Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair. I was naturally more excited about this than our eight-year-old was.

What isn’t at the museum at the moment is, well, about three quarters of the museum. It’s just what’s available in the ‘New Warehouse’; a huge restoration programme means that the other buildings are closed. The Power Hall should be open again next year if all goes well.


A photo of the Eureka National Childrens Museum in Halifax

Considering how often I pass Eureka, and the fact that we have a young child, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s been almost seven years since my last visit. And like that time, it was partly due to some Tesco Clubcard vouchers expiring. The museum hasn’t changed much in that time; the main difference was that the car garage is now a community area with a bus and a smaller electric car exhibit.

It’s still a good museum for half a day, and at eight years old our child isn’t too old for it. There’s a new Eureka, focussing more on science for slightly older kids, in Wirral which we need to visit at some point.

Royal Armouries, Leeds

A disarmed AK-47 rifle that has been covered in sprinkles and Love Hearts sweets

The last time we went to the Royal Armouries was for Thought Bubble, back in 2016. Museums about war and armour aren’t really my thing, but our eight-year-old had read a library book about them recently and so it was an opportunity to see some of those things in real life.

The Reloaded exhibition is interesting, as it looked at guns as gifts and objects of desire. There were also a couple of commissioned art pieces, such as an AK-47 covered with sprinkles and Love Hearts. It’s always fun to see the elephant armour too.

We have a few more busy weekends coming up, so I doubt we’ll be going anywhere else for a few weeks.

Going back to Eureka as an adult

A photo of the Eureka National Childrens Museum in Halifax

When I was a kid, I used to love going to Eureka, the national children’s museum in Halifax. I was eight years old when it opened in 1992, and so I was in the right age group to visit. I remember going with primary school at least once, and with my parents on other occasions.

Eureka turns 25 this year, and I took Lizzie along a few weeks ago. She’s been three times now – once with me, and twice with her mum. I took her because Christine was working that weekend, and we had a Tesco Clubcard Days Out voucher that was about to expire.

There are still quite a few bits of the museum there that I remember. I remember pedalling on a fixed bike, and seeing a skeleton appear doing the same motions. That’s still there, although the rest of the gallery around it is new. The SoundSpace gallery is new; Lizzie found this really stimulating with lots of sound and light. We also spent a little bit of time in Living and Working Together, and All About Me, but having arrived there after lunch on a Saturday there was only limited time.

When Eureka opened, it was almost unique in the level of interactivity offered. So many museums at the time locked their exhibits behind glass cases, and there would only be the occasional button to press. Eureka was different – you could play with just about everything. It was all about learning through play – a concept that it now applies to its nursery, which is consistently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. Nowadays, many more museums have exhibits which are accessible to kids, but Eureka was pioneering in this respect.

Eureka entry prices

Although it’s a national museum, Eureka doesn’t receive any central government funding, hence the need to charge an entrance fee. Our local MP, Holly Lynch, has been campaigning to change this. Making it free would be fantastic for Halifax, as it could bring in many more visitors to the town. Work is already ongoing to better link the town centre and the Piece Hall with Eureka and the railway station.

As it stands, for a family of two adults and two children aged 3 or over, a day out at Eureka is almost £52. Whilst the tickets are then valid for unlimited repeat visits within the subsequent 12 months, it’s still a big initial outlay. And that doesn’t include food at the café, parking or travel. It would be great if the museum could become more accessible to those on lower incomes.

Eureka is still a fantastic museum for kids. Quite a lot has changed in 25 years and I’m pleased to see how it’s developed. But it was also nice to go back and see things that I remembered when I was younger. And now that we live nearby, we’ll be getting the most out of our annual passes.

Armley Mills Industrial Museum

Photo of the inside of Armley Mills Industrial Museum

Yesterday Christine and I, along with a few friends, went to the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills.

Regular readers will note that this is the third industrial museum in the area that I’ve visited recently. Last year we went to the Bradford Industrial Museum, which is open regularly. And in August this year we went to the Calderdale Industrial Museum, which is only open select weekends throughout the year. The Leeds Industrial Museum is housed at Armley Mills, towards Kirkstall, and straddling a patch of land between the River Aire and Leeds Liverpool Canal.

Our reason for visiting was for the twice-annual Leeds Steampunk Market. It had moved to Armley Mills from its usual venue of Left Bank near Burley Park. Rather than being arranged in one place in a main hall, this time the market was spread out across the museum and over the four floors, including outside. This made it seem less busy, but well over 600 people had come through the door on Saturday, and the numbers were looking similarly healthy on Sunday when we visited. A 50% discount for those who came dressed in costume may well have helped, and indeed Christine and I took advantage of this.


This was our third visit to the Steampunk market and we have now both amassed the basic Steampunk outfit. Sadly we didn’t take any photos this time (bar the Instagram image above) but my spray-painted gold goggles attached to a top hat made an outing. I suppose over time we’ll be able to come closer to some of the outfits that the more committed followers of the Steampunk subculture have. As usual there were some excellent costumes on show by other attendees.

As for the actual museum at Armley Mills, I managed to take a few photos (uploaded to Flickr of course) but to be honest we will need to go back and actually look at the exhibits properly next time. Especially as in some cases it was difficult to tell if something was a museum artefact or a piece of Steampunk art.

The next Steampunk market in Leeds will be at the White Cloth Gallery on November 30th and December 1st. I may be there.

Calderdale Industrial Museum

Calderdale Industrial Museum

A few weeks ago Christine and I went to the Calderdale Industrial Museum in Halifax. The museum opened in 1985, but sadly closed only a few years later and has been mothballed ever since. A group of volunteers called CIMA are working to get the museum open again, and the 10th August was one of their regular open days where visitors could have a look around. I’ve uploaded the photos of my visit to Flickr.

Not all of the museum is accessible; the volunteers have been working for a couple of years but some parts are still out of bounds. However, there are three floors of exhibits, which include stationary engines like the one pictured, weaving machines and histories of some of the major companies that were founded in Halifax. These include Percy Shaw’s catseyes company, Mackintosh – maker of Quality Street and now a part of Nestlé, and the Halifax Bank.

A lot of the windows are still boarded up and not all of the light bulbs had been replaced, so the museum is quite dark. The paintwork on the walls needs some attention as well, as shown in some of my photos.

It was my first visit, but Christine had been as a child, back when the museum was open properly in the 1980s. I think she was disappointed at how the museum had been left to rot for so long. The volunteers have done well but will have their work cut out to get the museum back to where it was when it was closed, never mind taking it forward. I also got the feeling that the local council, which still owns the museum, isn’t being 100% co-operative.

There are also question marks hanging over the museum’s future. It backs on to The Piece Hall, which in January will under-go a 15-month modernisation, and it is next to the proposed site for Halifax’s new central library. The plans may see the museum building being cut down somewhat, although the artists’ impressions do at least show it so hopefully it’ll still be around in future.

There are two more open days planned for 2013, on the 14th and 15th September as part of the national Heritage Open Days events. If you’re in the area I would definitely recommend a visit – it’s easy to get to as it’s just around the corner from Halifax station. Entry is free, but I’m sure CIMA would be delighted if you were able to donate some money to help them get the museum open again more often.