Ellen Turner, before she became the wife of Thomas Legh, was the wealthy heiress to the Shrigley estate and the central figure in a scandal that shook 1820’s society. Until the 4th of November, the magnificent stately home at Lyme park will be filled with a newly commisioned sound installation recounting the scandalous events of her abduction and the subsequent trial. Creative Industries Trafford and Waterside Arts, theatrical producers Filament have collaborated to create ‘To Stop Her Mouth’.
As a 15 year old school girl, Ellen was abducted by the fortune hunter Edward Gibbon Wakefield. He convinced her that her father was in financial ruin, and that he had been sent to rescue her father’s fortunes. Despite being twice her age he married Ellen. Her family didn’t even realise she was missing until after the marriage had taken place. The trial of Edward Gibbon Wakefield followed shortly after the marriage in which the defence’s aim was ‘to stop her mouth’. Edward’s best chance of an innocent verdict was if Ellen wasn’t brought into court as a witness. During the trial, there was an eruption of press and media attention. Most of which was aimed at Ellen and bringing her character into question. A lot of the coverage involved conversation about her complicity in the marriage. It makes you question who, in this patriarchal society, was really on trial.
The transcript of the trial has been used to create the source material for the sound installation. As you walk through the house you will be immersed deeper into the court scene until finally, as you enter the saloon you are thrown into a courtroom scene in which you will play the jury. You will be allowed to make your own judgments on both characters and deduct where you think the guilt lies.
The audio for this piece was produced by Joel Clements and the production design is by Lis Evans. ‘To Stop Her Mouth’ allows you an insight into the problematic and dangerous world of a young wealthy woman in the 1800’s. Ellen lived in Lyme after marrying Thomas Legh at 16 but died aged only 19. Understand her life whilst walking through the walls she knew as a home for three years.
The installation itself is free, however, normal admission rates still apply.