The Thackray Museum in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England is a museum of the history of medicine adjacent to St James’s Hospital. Since it opened in 1997 it has won ‘Museum of the Year’ and other awards.
The building is a Grade II listed building, the former Leeds Union Workhouse, built in 1858 to accommodate 784 paupers. By the end of the 19th century, the buildings had become largely used for medical care of the poor, rather than workhouse and training. During the First World War it was called the East Leeds War Hospital, caring for armed services personnel.
Highlights include Life in Victorian Leeds: visitors walk through a reproduction of slum streets complete with authentic sights, sounds and smells and are invited to follow the lives, ailments and treatments of eight Victorian characters, making the choices that determine their survival amongst the rats, fleas and bedbugs. Pain, pus and blood describes surgery before anaesthesia, and having a baby focuses on developments in safety for childbirth. Hannah Dyson’s ordeal is a reconstruction of 1842 surgery, before anaesthetics were in use: visitors watch as 11-year old Hannah undergoes amputation of her leg after it was crushed in a mill accident. The life zone is an interactive children’s gallery. There are also temporary exhibition galleries. The museum also houses the skeleton of Mary Bateman, the ‘Yorkshire Witch’, who was executed for witchcraft in 1809.