Elizabeth Gaskell’s House has to be on the must-see list of every discerning literary tourist exploring the UNESCO City of Literature and was home to the famous Victorian writer and her husband from 1850 until her death in 1865. A Grade II*-listed neoclassical villa on Plymouth Grove in Ardwick, just one mile from Manchester City centre, the award-winning writer’s house museum has been lovingly restored and is open to the public Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11am to 4.30pm, with regular tours to sign up for.
The garden has also been returned to its former glory, replanted by a dedicated group of volunteers to show the sort of garden that the Gaskells enjoyed. The purpose of the garden at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House has always been to give as much enjoyment today as it did in Elizabeth’s time, and this has recently been recognised with the presentation of a prestigious RHS Britain In Bloom Silver Gilt Award. The garden’s layout is based on a detailed map of Manchester in 1850 which shows the paths and planting areas, and the choice of plants has been informed by references in Elizabeth’s letters and novels, as well as by Victorian garden history. The garden was very important to Elizabeth, for both pleasure and practical reasons – this was where she could grow flowers that were a sensory delight and also vegetables for the kitchen – and plans are afoot to reinstate the conservatory outside the Drawing Room, which would provide additional enjoyment of the garden to visitors… watch this space.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House has to be on the must-see list of every discerning literary tourist exploring the UNESCO City of Literature
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is well worth a visit, especially on every second Sunday of the month, when ‘possibly the best secondhand book sale in Manchester’ takes place in the Servants Hall, serving up cheap reads, and not just for copies of North & South. There are always both new and secondhand books for sale in the tearoom but this monthly fair is a chance to come and browse a wider selection of tomes, including a variety of fiction and gardening, of course, plus art, photography, classics, biographies, history, OS maps and much more. The next sale is 12 January, then 9 February, 8 March, 12 April and so on.
Be sure to also check out the exhibition, “My Dear Mr Ruskin…” Friendship, Inspiration and Scandal, John Ruskin and the Gaskell Family, which is on until the summer. It’s part of a programme of activities celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of writer, artist, social reformer, philanthropist, ecologist and ‘visionary thinker’ John Ruskin, taking place around the UK and also abroad. Often sharing the same ideals, putting them at odds with their contemporaries, John Ruskin and Elizabeth Gaskell were controversial writers during the 19th century. Our very own Festival of Ruskin in Manchester is popping up on various dates at venues around town, including Elizabeth Gaskell’s House – check out the website for upcoming events.
Heck, if you still have time, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake while you’re here, and then maybe nip to the not-too-far Pankhurst Centre (which offers a joint tour ticket with Gaskell’s House), Whitworth Art Gallery and Victoria Baths for more inspiring interiors and stories.