“THAT’S just like our old kitchen!”

On a visit to York's Castle Museum, my parents were astonished to come across a close replica of the kitchen that formed the hub of our home throughout the 1970s.

With its Formica units and linoleum floor, the kitchen is one of number of period rooms dotted throughout the popular attraction. Drab though it was, I had to agree. “It’s even got our cooker,” added my mum. It was, no doubt, trendy at the time.

Both in their eighties, my parents had visited the museum decades before, and still remembered much from that trip - the rooms in particular.

Decorated to reflect different eras, there’s a wonderful moorland cottage with a sheepdog lying on a rag rug in front of the hearth and a 1940s kitchen with a Belfast sink - firmly back in fashion today. With its tiled fireplace, retro chairs and Bakelite TV, the 1950s living room drew comparisons with my late Auntie Kathleen’s house in Middlesbrough.

An Aladdin’s cave of fascination, the museum looks at life through the ages, from interiors to fashion, domestic appliances and toys, evoking memories through its treasure trove of everyday items.

As soon as you enter the building - a former prison - a number of recently acquired items whet the visitor’s appetite for the quirky and unusual. “Look, this is believed to be York’s first umbrella!” my dad exclaimed. “That’s what I use now,” he later commented, having spied a 2018 Dell desktop monitor.

For me, the sight of a Chopper bike transported me back to 1970s’ summers when just about every child in our village rode one, and the 2009 Nintendo DS Lite, in pink, reminded me of my daughter, who treasured hers like the Crown Jewels.

For children there’s much in here to fire the imagination. Being asked to spot items such as Spirograph, Ikea vegetables, a water pistol and Bob the Builder in a room full of toys, is a fun challenge for youngsters and adults alike.

Opening in 1938, the museum sits on the site of York Castle which was originally built in 1068 by William the Conqueror. Housed in prison buildings built on the site in the 18th century - the debtors' prison and the female prison - it sits in the shadow of Clifford's Tower.

The museum was founded by North Yorkshire doctor John Lamplugh Kirk, who collected thousands of everyday objects throughout his life. He hoped they would show people in the future how ordinary folk lived in the past. Many of these items remain on display today.

John’s surname lives on in the most well-known part of the museum, Kirkgate - a superb recreation of a Victorian cobbled street.

One of the oldest recreated indoor streets of its kind in the world - possibly the oldest - and the first to be opened in Britain, Kirkgate formed the centrepiece of the museum from the beginning. Dr Kirk wanted to create a street scene whereby people felt that they were transported to a bygone age, and he certainly achieved that.

Lined with shops of the late Victorian period - confectioner’s, draper’s, milliner’s, a toy shop and many more - it has the atmosphere of a real place, made all the more convincing when it switches from day to night, and employs the special effects of a passing rain storm.

A restoration project completed in 2012 led to each shop and business on Kirkgate being named after a real one that operated in York at that time: there’s Leak & Thorp Draper, grocer Thomas Ambler and taxidermist Edward Allen. Some - Banks music shop and Sessions printers - still operate in the city today.

My mum loved the clockmaker’s, a tick-tock echoing around his cubbyhole, filled with tools of the trade, and the chemist’s with its glass jars containing pills and potions. Costumed shop assistants and guides can tell you more about each trader, and at intervals a special tour is held.

There’s the mouthwatering smell of the Cocoa House, a fixture of Victorian times, intended to tempt drinkers away from alcohol, and the neat desks of the schoolroom.

Throughout the museum, social history is explained in imaginative ways. A short film shows an exchange between two office workers, one from the 18th century, the other 21st: “Pen and ink? I have not held a pen since I was at school!” says the modern man, as the other describes his laborious working practices filling in documents by hand.

Displays in 'Shaping the Body' highlights the change in people's figures over the past 400 years. “I wouldn’t get my leg in that bodice,” I commented, as we marvelled at an 18th century garment’s ridiculously tiny waist.

Neither would I fancy trying to walk in some of the wacky shoes on display, from top designers including Vivienne Westwood. In an adjacent space, children had been having a go at designing their own - their efforts, pinned to the wall, were impressive.

Twiggy, the Beatles, mopeds and jukeboxes occupy another time zone, devoted to the 1960s.

With so much to see we had a welcome sit down in a train carriage, in which a film conveys the feeling of movement. It forms part of a First World War exhibition, telling how soldiers and new volunteers were transported from York to training camps.

As we passed through sandbagged trenches, young children crawled through a mock escape tunnel. There is reference to the Germain raid on Scarborough in December 1914.

As a break from the horrors of war. There’s a new exhibition in an adjacent room: collections from the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, displays mementos of love gone sour, along with brief explanations.

Displayed alongside objects from the museum's collections, they include Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, a pair of fluffy handcuffs and a steel rose…all reminders of passions that no longer exist.

Lastly, we explored York Castle Prison. An appropriately-named guide Stuart Castle was a mine of information, recounting the grim details of the fate of prisoners in these claustrophobic cells. “In one night nine men suffocated,” he told us.

Holograms of actual inmates tell their disturbing tales. “In the 18th century more than 200 crimes could result in hanging,” explained Stuart. You can look up prison inmates' criminal histories by surname. You can look up prison inmates' criminal histories by surname. There was one Mead, Thomas, a debtor, from the East Riding, imprisoned in 1813.

We ended our visit with a cup of tea in the museum’s spacious café, where delicious-looking home-made cakes are on sale.

*York Castle Museum, Eye of York, Tower St, York YO1 9RY, is open daily. For more details and entry fees visit yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk/visitor-information. Tel: 01904 687687