In Haunt

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is an impressive Grade II* listed property on Plymouth Grove – the former home of the influential Victorian novelist and cultural figure – open to the public as a visitor attraction since 2014. Yet although much of the home has been restored and is a wonderful example of the Regency Style just a mile away from Manchester city centre, Elizabeth’s former bedroom has remained untouched. Now a new campaign has been set up to recreate the room as it would have been – in all its Victorian wonder!

By Mark Tattersall

So what does this involve? Whilst Manchester Historic Building Trust – which cares for the house – has launched the campaign to gather funds, volunteers have been busy researching the individual items that would have been present. This means the room can be restored accurately as possible to when it was in use; the house after all serving the Gaskell family between the years 1850 and 1913. From a curtained bed and wardrobe to more unusual details such as a chaise lounge and even a hip bath have showed up in the findings…. and therefore the funding will help to source and gather these items.

A list of the required items has been created, so people can pick a particular object to fund if they like. It is also hoped that some people and other heritage organisations may have original Victorian artefacts that they might donate, or loan to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. Hence a huge collaborative effort.

But why does this matter? Restoring Elizabeth Gaskell’s Bedroom is an opportunity to interact with Victorian history first-hand, the restoration process itself providing a key way of contributing to heritage understanding and appreciation here in Manchester. It will also open up further opportunity for members of the public to learn about and visit this notable building in Manchester’s history. Built between 1835 and 1841, the house is constructed in the Regency Style and certainly stands out to passers-by. It was also a popular visiting place for eminent literary Victorians, including Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens… so you can follow in their footsteps! (Pictured below: The Study at Elizabeth Gaskell's House - credit: Mark Tattersall) 

The Study

According to Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd, House Manager of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House:

 “This is such a thrilling project for Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, that will be a lovely addition to the visitor experience; enabling us to share further insight into Elizabeth’s world and the way she lived her life.

 “The house was in a terrible state when the Trust took over the care of it in 2004 and there are no existing records detailing how this room would have looked, so we have a blank canvas.  What we hope to achieve is a reimagination of the room and a fitting legacy to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth’s own writing has been a rich starting point for our research, in that she had the ability to illuminate Victorian society and domesticity in a way quite unlike any other writer of her time.  We also have our fingers crossed that some of the original pieces of furniture that were auctioned off during the house sale in 1913 might find their way back home through our appeal.”

The bedroom restoration campaign has already attracted the support of the Little Greene Paint Company, which will be supplying the wallpaper and paint, whilst the reconstruction of a stone fireplace – as it would have once been in the room – will be kindly sponsored by Nostalgia in Stockport. Find out more about the campaign and options to support it online here. (Pictured below: The Dining Room)

The Dining Room

See the house it will be part of for yourself. As well its range of carefully-restored period rooms, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House also offers a tea room and changing exhibitions to visit throughout the year: with My Dear Mr Ruskin….” Friendship, Inspiration and Scandal there until the 30 June – exploring the connection between the Victorian polymath John Ruskin and the Gaskell family. There also is an exciting events programme at the house including workshops, talks and evening events… as well as the much-loved second-hand book sale that takes place every second Sunday of the month.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11.00am – 4.30pm. It is also available for hire and weddings, with more information available online. http://elizabethgaskellhouse.co.uk/

By Emily Oldfield 

Photographs - by Mark Tattersall 

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