10 things you might not know about Elizabeth Gaskell’s House
1. Elizabeth lived at the house from 1850-1865 with her husband, William, and four daughters. William and their two unmarried daughters, Meta and Julia, continued to live in the house after Elizabeth’s death. When Meta died in 1913 the house and its contents were sold.
2. In 1914 the Harper family bought the house. One the of Harper daughters was an actress and the other was a harpist with the Hallé orchestra. The morning room was used as a music room and the harp could be seen through the window by passers-by. The family had a Rolls Royce which was kept in the coach house where the Gaskells’ horse and carriage had previously been.
3. The house was purchased by the University of Manchester in 1969 and it was used by the International Society until the late 1990s. During this time the house was used as student accommodation and there was a bar and nightclub in the basement.
4. The House was relinquished by the University and handed over to Manchester Historic Buildings Trust in 2000. It was then restored with £2.5m from Heritage Lottery Fund and other supporters and has been open to the public since October 2014.
5. Four rooms on the ground floor have been restored to how they would have looked in the mid-1850s. Since the period rooms have been restored visitors can touch and sit on the majority of the furniture and furnishings and handle many of the objects.
6. William Gaskell’s Study contains over 1000 books – the majority can be handled and looked at. (See if you can find one of the 20 book plates written and created by Volunteers which explain why that book is in the collection.)
7. The chintz in the Drawing Room was rotary screen printed in Cumbria from an archive design first block printed in Lancashire between 1840 and 1858. Called ‘sentiment of flowers,’ it features ‘little rosebuds and carnations’ on a white ground, just as described by Elizabeth herself in a letter to Charles Eliot Norton dated 9 March 1859.
8. The Brussels closed loop carpets in the period rooms and on the staircase, were all woven on Jacquard looms in Halifax, West Yorkshire by specialist company, Avena. The designs were sourced from their archives of the 1850s. They were produced in strips just 27 inches wide and then sewn together by hand.
9. Two of the wallpapers (for the Morning Room and Study) were produced by local Manchester company, Little Greene, who were established in the late Eighteenth Century and the wallpaper in the Drawing Room was produced especially for the house by Bruce Fine Papers and is known as Dearle Damask in colourway ‘drab’.
10. The wood in the entrance hall and study is hand grained to give pine the appearance of a more expensive oak. A specialist wood grainer, who was in his late 70’s when the house was refurbished, was brought out of retirement to produce the wood grain finish. When he had completed the work, he signed his name on the bottom right hand side of the front door.
Find out more – visit the House on any Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday, 11am-4.30pm (last entry 4pm)