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  • Leicester Museum & Art Gallery has been bringing people together to enjoy art, history and science for 175 years
  • In the 1930s Leicester Museum & Art Gallery inspired local boy David Attenborough to explore his love of the natural world
  • The original columned building was designed by the inventor of the horsedrawn cab, Joseph Hansom

The foundation of the Town Museum

Designed in 1836 by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the horsedrawn cab, this building started life as a school. In 1848 the school was bought by the Leicester Corporation with the idea of converting it to a public museum, one of the first council-run museums to be established in the country. It opened in 1849.

A place to enjoy the pages of history and the world of art

The initiative was keenly supported by the town´s Literary and Philosophical Society who donated its own collection of 10,000 objects to the project. They hoped the museum would heal some of the town´s political and religious divisions through the common enjoyment of art, history and science. In 1873 the Society contributed to the extension of the Museum to include a new lecture hall, incorporating the adjoining School of Art building

In 1892 a large extension was completed, filling the space between the Museum and School of Art. It included new art galleries and a meeting space, the Council Room. Following the extension, in 1897, the School of Art moved to the new Technical and Art School in the Newarke, now part of De Montfort University.

dinosaur gallery 02
The Dinosaur Gallery as it looks today

A cabinet of curiosities

When it opened in 1849 Thomas Cook thought it would become “an instructive lounge for the lovers of science” and his son donated specimens from his travels.

The original museum collections contained a vast array of curiosities, archaeological specimens, artwork and antiquities plus thousands of geological, fossil, animal, bird and insect specimens. It was particularly popular with “the working classes” with over 3,000 visitors recorded on the first day of Sunday opening in 1891.

A museum for all

Sir David Attenborough was a regular visitor to Leicester Museum & Art Gallery in his childhood having grown up nearby. Talking of exploring the natural world and finding fossils; ‘Of course I wanted to know what they were. So I brought them here to the Museum, which is a crucial element in any community. The influence of this museum had a profound effect on my career.' The Dinosaur Gallery was opened in 2011 by Sir David Attenborough.

Expanded again during the 20th Century, the galleries now cover subjects such as dinosaurs, Egyptians and the natural world, including a beautifully restored Victorian art gallery. Leicester Museum & Art Gallery continues to operate as a free public museum today.

Leicester Museum & Art Gallery is open daily.



Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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