Leeds City Museum, Cookridge St., Leeds LS2 8BH
The Leeds Institute(Cuthbert Brodrick, 1865-8)

This imposing building originally housed the Leeds Mechanics’ Institute and Literary Society, formed by the amalgamation of two separate societies founded in 1824 and 1826 respectively.  By the 1860s this had evolved from its original purpose as a provider of adult education for working men (and very soon women), into one of the foremost intellectual institutions of the town.  Catering for a broader membership than the exclusive (and expensive) Philosophical and Literary Society, the Leeds Institute became famous for its annual soirées which attracted visiting luminaries such as former Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, in 1852. 

Heaton’s involvement with the Institute was marginal compared to the Phil. and Lit., but he did attend lectures here, and often entertained or accommodated visiting lecturers at Claremont.   The Yorkshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutes, of which the Leeds Institute was a vital part, established the Yorkshire Board of Education in which Heaton played a leading role, and which went on to establish Leeds University.  The building was home to the Leeds College of Art (1846), whose annual exhibitions became part of the social calendar of the Leeds elite.  The Institute itself was one of the forerunners of Leeds Beckett University.

During the twentieth-century the Institute building housed the Leeds Civic Theatre, and some of the internal features from this period remain.  It now houses the Leeds City Museum, the core of which came from the collection of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.  Inside may be found an original portrait of Ellen Heaton, as well as innovative displays about life in Victorian Leeds. 

For an image of the Institute building from Leodis, click here.

 Further Reading:
 The Leeds Institute of Science and Literature (1901), Historical Sketch. Leeds.