Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

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Growing up in Leeds in the 1930s and 1940s

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s

Potternewton Mansion School for Pupils with Special Needs

From 1929 to 1968, Potternewton Mansion School on Harehills Lane was a Special School, or what we would now call a Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre. It cared for children and families living with a range of disabilities, including those affected by Polio. Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that can attack the central nervous system and cause paralysis.

Black and white photograph showing a student using a sewing machine. She is wearing braces on her legs, so may have suffered from polio in the past
Student from Potternewton School for Pupils with Special Needs

The school name deliberately didn’t reference that it was a school working with children with additional needs, and the teaching ethos was to support young people to lead full lives of active citizenship.

Black and white photograph showing a group of young boys sitting around a table eating.  There is a woman teacher or helper in the picture too.
Boys at Potternewton Mansion School having Lunch

There were four ground floor classrooms, a physiotherapist and a nurse on site. Children were encouraged to learn a trade, such as cobbling (making and mending shoes). There was a National Lottery Heritage Fund Project about the Mansion House. More information in the Supporting Links.


Housing in Leeds

In the 1960s many people in Leeds lived in 'back-to-back' houses - houses that were literally built with a shared back wall. They did not have any outdoor space and were very cramped inside. There was no hot water, and toilets were outside, and shared between multiple households! The archive film below includes footage from streets of back-to-backs, and shows how a group of architects sought to improve living conditions by building 'streets in the sky'.


Martin’s story:

Martin McGuire recalls his early memories of the Quarry Hill flats complex in Leeds during the 1950s and 1960s. He remembers each different section of the flats and recalls growing up and playing with his family and friends. Watch from 0.36 onwards. The images are useful for what children wore, what toys they had and how they played together, with some of the family stories retold by Martin.  Watch Martin's story here.


Girl guiding in Leeds:

The film explores the starting of the scouts and girl guiding movements and has memories shared by both past (1950s/1960s/1970s) and present Girl Guides Senior Section members. The Leeds Sea Rangers who sailed on Roundhay Park Lake, despite being over 70 miles inland! This film was created for an exhibition at Abbey House Museum in 2016, in collaboration with Girl Guiding Leeds.