Pictures of History: Thackray Medical Museum

Earlier this year I visited the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds.

Thackray Medical Museum (credit

This offers the public a wonderful mix of the history of medicine, medical innovations and of public sanitation in the Victorian era.

It is the brainchild of Paul Thackray, grandson of Charles Frederick Thackray, the founder of Chas. F. Thackray Ltd of Leeds, a medical supply company that began trading as a pharmacy in 1910. In the 1980s Paul started a small company museum and after the family business was sold in 1990, a charitable trust was established to extend the company’s collection. The museum was opened in 1997.

Late 17C frame for correcting deformities
Frame for correcting deformities (late 17c)

The late seventeenth century frame pictured above was probably made by an armourer and not made to be worn as a whole suit, but as a demonstration model to illustrate the different types of support available. Note that all four limbs are different.

Thackray Medical Museum

The ceiling of the grand entrance of the museum.

Thackray Medical Museum
Pony-drawn invalid carriage
Thackray Medical Museum
Shared privy (19c)

Top tip: take a clothes peg, the museum shares the smells of what it was like living in the dark courts of Leeds before public sanitation changes.

It is a family-friendly museum but it does warn that the darker areas may be a little scary for younger visitors.

Thackray Medical Museum

Above are some of the exhibits showing the products that would be sold in Chemist and Druggists stores in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Previous posts in this series.

Pictures of History: Alnwick Castle

Pictures of History: Rosslyn Chapel

Pictures of History: Blair Castle

Pictures of History: Natural History Museum

Pictures of History: Tower of London


Thackray Medical Museum


22 thoughts on “Pictures of History: Thackray Medical Museum

    1. I’m a pharmacy technician so was excited to visit. I was supposed to write a big post but have never got round to it. It’s a fascinating place. And they have a great gift shop, you know with pens shaped like syringes filled with blood!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Those pens sound like they would be great to write prescriptions with or use at work! If you are ever in Canada, Niagara Falls has an old-fashioned apothecary, called the Niagara Apoethcary, full of all kinds of interesting artifacts!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. So interesting! I have a fascination with all things medical. Maybe it’s because both my parents worked in a hospital when I was growing up. I love seeing these glimpses into the past.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. A torture implement from around the 16 and 17 c – basically a scold was a woman who nagged, was a harridan etc., disturbed the peace and needed to be shut up! The scold’s bridle was a helmet-like device that blocked the mouth and tongue from working. It was an awful invention in an era when women were extremely limited in their recourse to law. Other such women were accused of witchcraft.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it was a bit pongy! But I did like the walk through the 19c section as it was showing how life was like for the very poor in Leeds pre public health initiatives before sanitation began to improve. I loved the pharmacy section, I work in pharmacy at the mo so that is always interesting to me. You know, spotting the controlled drugs or the poisons!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A smelly museum. How inviting.
    I like medical exhibits as well. Last time I walked into one I had no cash on me (free admission day), so I missed out on the gift store. Never got to go back. And I used to live almost next door, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to come here a lot as a child, I vividly remember the video showing a Victorian doctor amputating a girl’s leg before the development of anaesthetics. Gruesome, but it certainly inspired a life-long love of medical science.

    Liked by 1 person

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