Elizabeth Gaskell House – the Novelist’s Neoclassical Home.
Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the Nineteenth Century’s greatest British authors, known for both her industrial fiction and gothic short stories, and is perhaps most famous for her novels, ‘Cranford’ and ‘North and South’ amongst others.
What is not as famous however, is the fact that the beautiful period property in which she wrote, stands today in Manchester’s City Centre.
The House is where Elizabeth Gaskell lived from 1850-65, during the height of Manchester’s industrial boom. The house, built in the antique style is a countermeasure to the imposing modernity of the City’s smog, factories and mills. The historical haven is clearly a setting that served Elizabeth Gaskell well, and is one that can be equally enjoyed in the contemporary hustle and bustle. Visit the Elizabeth Gaskell House for a foray into a stunningly restored Victorian Town House, which produced some of the greatest literature written in, and inspired by, the City of Manchester. The House is not merely appropriate for literary aficionados but all looking for a moment of calm, amidst breath-taking heritage which a host of events and talks to maintain your interest.
From Decay to Theft; a Long Journey to Restoration.
The Elizabeth Gaskell House, previously known as 84 Plymouth Grove, is one of Manchester’s few remaining examples of neoclassical architecture. The Grade II listed building has known its share of famous faces throughout the years, and has been visited by Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin to name a few. In fact, the house is where Gaskell wrote her biography of her dear friend Charlotte.
After the death of the Elizabeth and her husband, William, the Gaskell family continued to occupy the residence, until the 1913. As the building was given listed status, it was thankfully protected from demolition but sadly not from falling into disrepair. However, in 2009, the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust pursued a restoration project, lasting for several years, returning the site to its former glory from the outside, in. This restoration was halted in 2011, following the theft of the lead roof. It was only in 2014, the damage mitigated, that the building was open to the public, following the completion of the restored exterior and interior. Now, the building is a portal to an authentic Victorian home, and has been curated to be as faithful to the original abode as possible.
Exhibits, Events and Cakes.
The Elizabeth Gaskell House is more than just a time capsule however, but it pairs the novelist’s home and exhibits with talks, events, musical and educational. These events range from Victorian themed concerts to Gaskell-inspired Creative Writing workshops. The rooms are stewarded by informed and helpful assistants whom give fascinating talks regarding the history and interpretation of the House and its inhabitants. Once you have soaked up the Culture, a visit is perhaps best ended with a delicious cup of tea and a cake, served in period china at the House’s Tea Room?
The House is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 11.00am to 4.30pm (Last entry 4.00pm). Admission is charged at £4.95 for an adult ticket and £3.95 for a concessions ticket.
I recommend a visit to the Elizabeth Gaskell House not just for those acquainted with the author but for those looking for sanctuary in a busy City, the beauty and serenity of the environment make for a great afternoon away, whether on your own or with company.