Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Mrs Gaskell's House

Today we visited Mrs Gaskell's home. The house was built between 1835-1841 and Elizabeth lived here with her husband and 4 daughters from 1850 until 1865, when she died. Her first child, a daughter, was stillborn and her only son died when he was a baby. It was after her little boy's death that her husband encouraged her to write her first book 'Mary Barton'.

I'm glad somebody fought hard to preserve this house. So many of these buildings have been knocked down in Manchester or left to go to ruin over the years. I think we need to hold on to as many as we can now. 

Elizabeth was born in 1810 and in 1832 married William, a Unitarian Minister. This is her wedding veil, a jacket and one of her shawls.
The whole family were very involved in Manchester's way of life, especially charitable causes and in particular education for children. They would often bring children to their home to teach them reading and writing in this room.
And the house was always full of visitors including the famous Charles Dickens, Charles Halle and Charlotte Bronte. When Charlotte died Elizabeth wrote a posthumous biography of her life, although she had to 'tone it down' to avoid legal action from several persons connected to Charlotte. 

William and Elizabeth were very happy together but they often followed their own interests. While William didn't care for travel abroad, preferring Wales and the Lake District, Elizabeth enjoyed her overseas jaunts and would take the children and her trusted maid and friend, Ann Hearn, away with her. The paper on the left is her passport and the book is the equivalent of today's Hitchhiker's Guide books.
The dining room was set out beautifully and although the dinner service and cruet set didn't belong the family, they are from the era and are the coalport design. 
Elizabeth liked to write in the middle of the hustle and bustle of family life. There was no shutting herself in a room on her own for hours on end. Her writing desk was at one end of the dining room, overlooking the gardens. Next door was the drawing room where the family would gather, visitors would be entertained and her daughters would take piano lessons. Solitude was something she definitely didn't crave.

It's amazing to think that novels used to be handwritten with ink, quill and paper. No computer, no spell check, no copies made, no back up facility. Quite unimaginable these days.
I do love a winding staircase. Sadly, apart from one room full of information boards, the rest of the upper level has been given over to rooms that are rented out as meeting rooms, offices, community clubs etc. 
Which is a shame, because I would have liked to have seen one bedroom set up and all the closed doors marked Private/Staff/Meeting Room were a bit of a disappointment. Never mind, like everywhere these days, money has to be made and if this goes towards keeping the house open, so be it.
Next we made our way below stairs to the cafe. 
Nothing fancy on offer in here, just tea, coffee and cakes, but all presented on beautiful dainty china plates. The plates are so much smaller than anything we use these days, which makes me think maybe that's the problem with regard to portion control. This slice of cake would look measly on my side plates, yet on this plate it looked, and was more than adequate.
There was also a bookshelf in the cafe with second hand books for sale along with Elizabeth Gaskell's works. I bought this, excerpts taken from letters and novels  she wrote.
There were a few of Elizabeth's quotes dotted around the house that seem as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago. 
Although she had an eloquent way of describing the more mundane tasks. Me and Mum couldn't stop laughing when I said "it sounds so much better than 'I've just shoved a load in the machine'".
Then it was home and back to the 21st Century. And because Number 38 doesn't have a set of these in the house, or more importantly, the staff to go with them, it was down to me to shove a load in, hoover and prepare our meal.
There's something to be said for being the lady of the house in the old days.


xxx

11 comments:

  1. what a gorgeous day out.
    :O) x

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    1. It was lovely. Actually I don't much mind what I do or where I go (not car showrooms though!), it's just nice to do something different. One more on my list is Emmeline Pankhurst's house. She was born in Moss Side Manchester and her house is open to visitors too as well. xx

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    2. ...too, as well. What terrible English lol. xx

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  2. What an interesting post! I have read Mary Barton but quite a few years ago now. Love your comment on how Elizabeth described her laundry. Thanks for sharing your visit with us.
    Caz xx

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    1. Hi Caz and welcome to Number 38. I need to embrace her way of thinking although I'm not sure I'll ever look at my washing as beautiful. I've had a quick peek at your blog and see you are reading Ove. I've read the book recently and loved it. xx

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  3. Such an interesting post & it looks like such a fascinating place to visit. I'm glad you enjoyed it x

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    1. It's a lovely house, not so much the surrounding area though. I imagine similar houses were built in the area, now there are modern terraced houses, offices, clinics, a university, and Manchester Children's Hospital. All very much needed but it irritates me sometimes that we (Mancunians) seem happy to keep knocking things down, while Bath, Cheltenham, etc. appear to prefer to preserve their buildings. The house was protected because of its connection with Elizabeth but was basically just left to decline into a terrible state. Thankfully, it's being well looked after now. xx

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  4. You can always upscale your slices of cake on your plates to match that picture! A fab post - you should post it on Trip Advisor X

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    1. Thank you. I've never left a comment on Trip Advisor but I do like reading the bad ones, some of them are pure genius lol. What a fantastic idea about the cake. A bigger piece to fit the cake is the obvious answer :) xx

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  5. What an interesting post, I really enjoyed it, thank you.
    Pam in TX.xx

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    1. Glad you enjoyed reading about the house Pam. It's a lovely house, just hope they manage to do something upstairs in the years to come. It cost us £4.95 each for entry but the ticket is valid for 12 months, so we'll probably re-visit at some point, even if it's just for the drive out and a cup of tea and slice of cake. xx

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