The best-kept treasures in Yorkshire

David Hockney's pictures at Salts Mill
David Hockney's pictures at Salts Mill
  • From priceless paintings to historic one-offs and a few cabinets of curiosities, Sarah Freeman takes a look through Yorkshire’s museums, art galleries and stately homes to unearth the county’s best treasures.
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Middleham Jewel, Yorkshire Museum, York: This outstanding example of medieval craftsmanship was found near Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire. The diamond-shaped gold pendant is adorned with a large sapphire and is intricately engraved, on the front with an image of the Holy Trinity and on the back with the Nativity. It is sometimes speculated that the Jewel belonged to Richard III’s mother.

The Procession to Calvary, Nostell Priory, near Wakefield: Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s masterpiece was completed in 1602 and depicts Christ carrying the cross on his way to crucifixion. The painting hung at the stately home for 200 years, but it almost disappeared from public view when it was put up for sale by the property’s owner Lord St Oswald. A joint Art Fund and National Trust effort successfully raised £2.7m to buy the painting which remains in the house today.

Frame and fortune: The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Brueghel.

Frame and fortune: The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Brueghel.

Brontë children’s miniature books, Brontë Parsonage, Haworth: Containing thousands of tiny words on each page, these miniature manuscripts are a fascinating insight into the early lives of Yorkshire’s famous literary family. Penned almost two decades before the publication of Jane Eyre they chronicle a fantastical world which the siblings called Arcadia.

Silver Moonlight, Huddersfield Art Gallery: The 1886 shows Atkinson Grimshaw at his very best. The Leeds-born painter first picked up a brush while working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. Towns and docks featured heavily in his highly atmospheric paintings. He painted famous dockyard scenes including Glasgow Docks and Liverpool Docks as well as a number of paintings focused on Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London.

John Bull and the National Debt, Wakefield Museum: Charles Waterton was a wealthy 19th century naturalist and explorer. He was also an eccentric who found a hobby creating sculptures out of stuffed specimens. Many had a satirical edge, like this porcupine in a tortoiseshell, so weighed down by debt that it is overcome by six devils.

York Helmet, Yorkshire Museum: One of only three complete examples from the Anglian period, the helmet, which dates to the second half of the 8th century, was discovered in a wood-lined pit with fragments of antler, stone, glass and iron in 1982 during the building of York’s Coppergate shopping centre.

One of the most important private collections of British studio cermaics has been lent to York Art Gallery

One of the most important private collections of British studio cermaics has been lent to York Art Gallery

Working Model of Draped Figure, Castleford Museum: It wouldn’t be a comprehensive list of Yorkshire’s treasures without a mention of Henry Moore. This particular sculpture, one of his most famous, was originally installed outside, but following fears of vandalism – someone drew a pair of spectacles on the figure – it was moved inside the museum in the early 1980s.

Chinese Wallpaper, Harewood House, near Leeds: On display at Harewood House is one of the finest example of hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the world. Discovered in near perfect condition after being cut from the walls in the 19th century, this rare work of art was originally designed for the Chintz Bedroom on the first floor of the house.

Stained glass window, Cliffe Castle Museum, Bradford: Originally the home of a textile magnate, the museum houses some of the earliest William Morris stained glass in the country, including detail from a stained glass war memorial window designed 1921 by John Henry for the city’s Temple Street Methodist Chapel.

Shakespeare First Folio, Brotherton Library, Leeds: Containing 18 of Shakespeare’s plays that had never been printed before, the First Folio is one of the most important books in the history of English Literature, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. The work suggests that Shakespeare may have revised some of his plays, either to reshape them for publication, or to meet the changing demands of performance.

William Smith map, Yorkshire Museum, York: Completed in 1815 and dubbed “the map which changed the world”, William Smith was the first to accurately compile a geological map of Britain. The cost of printing the map forced him into bankruptcy, but it also assured his place in history.

The Day of Atonement, Leeds Art Gallery: Painted in 1919 by Leeds artist Jacob Kramer, the work depicts a gathering of Jewish men coming together for prayer to take part in Yom Kippur. Still considered by many to be a great painter of his time and one of the central figures of the Leeds Arts Movement in the 1930s, this is one of his most striking works.

Anglo Saxon cross fragments, Dewsbury Minster: The three Saxon sandstone fragments are thought to have been part of a huge cross, commemorating the Roman missionary Paulinus’ preaching and celebrating in Dewsbury AD 627. One of the fragments shows the figures of Christ enthroned, flanked by his apostles.

Elephant armour, Royal Armouries, Leeds: This 17th century armour is composed of 5,840 plates and is the only animal armour of this scale on public display. Acquired in India by Lady Clive, wife of Edward, 2nd Lord Clive (Governor of Madras) and brought back to England in 1801, it is entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest animal armour in the world.

Roman sculpture, Newby Hall: The various busts and busts and statues arrived in Yorkshire in the mid 18th-century. They were the result of an extensive shopping trip William Weddell, who embarked on his Grand Tour in 1765 and have since been lovingly restored by Lucinda Compton, wife of Weddell’s descendant Richard Compton.

One & Other, Yorkshire Sculpture Park: Any one of the park’s installations could have made it onto our list, but in the end we went for Anthony Gormley’s work. It might not be as imposing as the Angel of the North, but perched in the trees, this faceless figure is both eerie and intriguing.

Mother and Child, The Hepworth Wakefield: Small but perfectly formed, Barbara Hepworth’s abstract stone sculpture was completed in 1934. As the title suggests, the sculpture is loosely figurative and both pieces appear to have been carved from the same piece of Cumberland alabaster.

A View of Sheffield from Psalter Lane, Millennium Galleries, Sheffield: The oil painting by 19th century artist Joseph McIntyre was completed around 1850, when Sheffield was still a small manufacturing town surrounded by countryside. In the foreground is Brincliffe Edge, a sandstone quarry that supplied building stone and grindstones for the cutlery industry.

Nesyamun, Leeds City Museum: Dating back more than 3,000 years, the coffin of the Egyptian priest, incense-bearer and scribe arrived in Yorkshire in 1823. He has been recognised as one of the most remarkable mummies in Britain and has been the subject of much research to discover more about the living conditions, diseases, and causes of death of the ancient Egyptians.

Level Crossing, Huddersfield Art Gallery: L.S. Lowry’s painting of the view from the Staffordshire town of Burton upon Trent. Showcasing his trademark style, Lowry had a long career and apart from his industrial scenes he produced landscapes, seascapes, portraits and figure studies – but it is for his visions of gritty urban reality that he is most famous.

Chippendale bed, Bolling Hall, Bradford: Dating from the medieval period, Bolling Hall is a rambling mixture of styles, with every nook and cranny packed with history. Rooms are furnished and decorated to give an accurate taste of life at different periods of the house’s history, and the furniture collection includes this superb carved bed made for Harewood House by Thomas Chippendale.

The Duchess of Padua, Brotherton Library, Leeds: Oscar Wilde was celebrated for his sparkling social comedies of the 1890s, but it is little known that his writing for the stage began over a decade earlier with a pair of failures. One of them was The Duchess of Padua. It was eventually produced in New York in 1891, but did not transfer to the London stage and by 1898 Wilde conceded it was unfit for publication.

Workers in the Dawn, Gissing Centre, Wakefield: Last year it was named as Yorkshire’s least visited tourist attract, but the Gissing Centre is worth a look. Based in the home of writer 
George Gissing, who penned 23 novels between 1880 and 1903, it contains some rare first editions, including this one valued at almost £2,000.

The Gott Collection The Hepworth Wakefield: Gifted to the City’s art collection in 1930, the collection was assembled in the 19th century by vicar of Leeds John Gott and his father William. The bound 10-volume collection includes 1,200 images, consisting of 65 watercolours, 315 drawings, 749 prints, depicting more than 200 Yorkshire villages, towns and cities.

The Arrival of Spring, Salts Mill, Saltaire: David Hockney originally drew the 5ft high 
framed pictures on his iPad during the latter 
part of the years he lived in Bridlington. Each depicts a specific day between January 1 and May 31, 2011 and together they encapsulate a moment in time between the changing seasons in East Yorkshire.

Ceramic collection, York Art Gallery: The Anthony Shaw collection is one of the most important private collections of British studio ceramics. It contains a number of pieces by Lucie Rie, including ceramic earrings, buttons and brooches, each one made in the 1940s and 50s to colour match customers’ dresses.

Adolf Hitler’s blood transfusion kit, Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds: Perhaps one of the oddest exhibits held in the county’s museums. The kit was kept aboard his official yacht, the Grille, in case of emergency and was seized when the vessel was captured by Allied forces in 1945.

Kiss, Grave Gallery, Sheffield: Contemporary artist Marc Quinn was inspired by classical sculptures in the British Museum. However, his subjects are amputee models Matt Fraser and Catherine Long, their bodies cast in luminous superwhite marble.