Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

by Veronica

The famous author's house has been restored not as a museum but as a family house where you feel that the family have just gone outside. And that is exactly what it feels like!

84. Plymouth Grove Manchester.

Famous Victorian Author Elizabeth Gaskell's house, now in inner city Manchester, has benefited from a Heritage Lottery grant and been restored from an empty Victorian shell to a magnificently restored master piece. When it was built the house was on the outskirts of Manchester and almost semi-rural. The restoration team wanted the house to have a feel of a family home rather than a museum and it certainly has that charm as we discovered on a guided tour today. The Gaskells were endless letter writers and the artefacts and letters they have left behind have given a valuable insight into how the house would have been and how it should be restored. And they have done a superb job too. The rooms have been carefully researched and restored according to the fabrics and possible patterns of the day.
The tour guide today was Anne and she was excellent guide, paced, knowledgeable and patient.
This weekend is Heritage Weekend in UK where several attractions are free to Now with the help of the grant the house is a beautifully, sensitively restored tribute to a remarkable Victorian female writer.

The Gaskell family

Rev William Gaskell, his wife Elizabeth and their four daughters moved in and rented the house from about 1850. Rev Gaskell was the clergyman at a well know Unitarian Chapel in the city, Cross Street. They were classed as “dissenters " 

Rev Gaskell was very advanced in thinking that his daughters deserved a wonderful education. The house soon became a focal point for writers, thinkers, politicians of the age. Well known authors such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens were visitors to the house. Elizabeth's books were different in that she often tried to show the reality of life rather than the surface elegance in novels at the time. 

Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester
Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester
the guardian

1861 census

The 1861 census lists the family house at 82 Plymouth Grove at the time but house numbers did change over the years. The family had inherited wealth plus they had money from Elizabeth's sales from her books. 

These are the occupants…  William, Elizabeth, and several servants. 

William, Elizabeth,  Florence and Julia Gaskell and servants Ann Hearn, Mary Elliot, Mary Latham. Amelia Winstanley and Karoline Weiderman. 

1871 Census

William was a widower by this point. He was at the house with Florence now Compton and daughter Julia. They had five servants. 

On the 1871 census the house is listed as 84. Elizabeth had been dead about 6 years. 

Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte

Friends Elizabeth and Charlotte
Friends Elizabeth and Charlotte

Inside the house

The restoration

Great attention has been given to every aspect of the restoration to make sure it is as authentic as possible. Well done to the house team.

The over the door awning below was bought by two of Elizabeth's daughters on a tour of Italy. It was donated to a Manchester's art gallery who never displayed but gave it to Gaskell House when it was opened. 

It shows the Annunciation from Luke's Gospel. 

Italian door awning
Italian door awning

The drawing room

Such attention was given to recreating Elizabeth's drawing room that the team found a mill which had some Victorian chintz designs. These have been used to good effect. Similarly the carpet which is a Victorian pattern. 

Drawing Room carpets and chintz
Drawing Room carpets and chintz

The dining room

I stood there thinking, I wonder which literary greats sat around this table. 

It is so elegant and beautifully set out. 

Dining room
Dining room

Conclusion

Manchester has lots to offer, football teams and stadia, restaurants, museums, theatres and attractions. Gaskell House is up there amongst the best places to visit. Simple, elegant, calm and welcoming. Take the time to visit Gaskell House if you are in the area. 

84, Plymouth Grove. 

Updated: 09/08/2018, Veronica
 
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Veronica on 09/29/2018

Thank you. I always feel like I have been to a place when my wizzley family do posts like these.

AngelaJohnson on 09/28/2018

I am so impressed when a person or an organization works to save and renovate historical buildings, making them as authentic as possible. I love learning history by visiting places like this.

Veronica on 09/11/2018

Derdriu

Yes , I kept going back to the Annunciation portal there just to gaze at it. The Art Gallery were given it and kept it in the archives downstairs . It was never displayed. If my house were suitable for such grandeur I would have had it! It is BEAUTIFUL and even more beautiful than the photo depicts.

I don't know about the roofs. But yes there are gardens but it was a typical North of England Autumn day and rain was lashing it down. WE stayed inside with the baby granddaughter.

Veronica on 09/11/2018

BSG
I think then she would like the attention to period detail in this house. It has been meticulously researched and presented. If you get to the North West t let Frank and me know.

Veronica on 09/11/2018

Dusty
It stood derelict for years and years. The Gaskell daughters died approx. 1912 and very little was done with it .
The National Lottery has done some good work nationally with its funds, I have to admit.

You are right that most would overlook such places. My best thing about it is that Harriet Beecher Stowe visited …. just ...wow ….

DerdriuMarriner on 09/10/2018

Veronica, Thank you for the backstories and practicalities. In particular, I appreciate the blue (one of Our Lady Mary's colors) and white depiction of the Annunciation, always a favorite Testament story of mine. Are there gardens? Is the flat roof used for anything, such as star-viewing?
On this side of the pond, a flat roof sometimes was called an aquarium!

blackspanielgallery on 09/09/2018

Going into preserved old houses that are still furnished is something my wife would enjoy doing.

dustytoes on 09/09/2018

Veronica, I really enjoy your insights into these historical attractions in your neck of the woods. They are places that may be overlooked by the average tourist or visitors. Elizabeth Gaskell's house is one sturdy looking structure! And how fascinating to think that the best writers of the time visited here.

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