Gaskell House Blogs

1810 is Elizabeth’s birth year – but what else is happening?

30th September 2021
in blog, Events, Literature, People

In our timeline series, we’ve been concentrating on exploring key years in the 1840s and1850s when Elizabeth Gaskell was publishing her wonderful novels. In this week of her birth, it seems a good idea to focus on 1810, the year she was born – a firmly Georgian year, and a very different world to that of the later Victorian years.

On September 29, Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson is born at Belle View, Lindsey Row in Chelsea, a house that is now 93 Cheyne Walk. Her parents, William Stevenson and Elizabeth Holland have one older surviving son, John. There are two stories explaining the Cleghorn in her name: her daughter, Meta, maintained it was the name of a woman who had been kind to Elizabeth Holland Stevenson, though her father’s friend, the farmer and writer, James Cleghorn, might also have a claim!

William Gaskell, her future husband, has had his fifth birthday on July 24, and is living in Warrington with his parents and his brother Sam and sister Ann.

George 3rd – Farmer George – is on the throne though the days of his active rule are drawing to a close. In 1811, he is recognised as being mad and his son, the Prince of Wales is appointed as Prince Regent. And in the wider world?

  • The Napoleonic Wars and the Peninsula War are still being fought, although the British triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 protects Britain from a French invasion.
  • On June 15, William Cobbett is found guilty of a treasonous libel for his article in the Political Register which is critical of the flogging of soldiers in the army. He is sentenced to two years imprisonment in Newgate Prison.
  • The General Union of Spinners organises strike action to raise wages in the smaller cotton centres to those paid in Manchester.
  • On May 3, a 22 year old Lord Byron swims across the Hellespont in Turkey.
  • Walter Scott’s narrative poem The Lady of the Lake is published: on May 8 in Scotland and May 16 in England. It is critically acclaimed and achieves huge popular success – selling 25,000 copies in eight months. It starts a tourist boom – unprecedented numbers of visitors flock to Loch Katrine, the setting of the poem.
  • Jane Porter’s historical novel about William Wallace, The Scottish Chiefs, is published – the book is still popular in Scotland today. Elizabeth Gaskell was familiar with Jane Porter’s work and quotes from another of her books in Cranford where Signor Brunioni speaks ‘such pretty broken English, I could not help thinking of Thaddeus of Warsaw.’ There’s a copy of Jane Porter’s Thaddeus of Warsaw in William’s study at the House – do come and find it on your next visit And while you’re here don’t miss our Cranford exhibition!
  • Phineas T Barnum – the Greatest Showman! – is born on July 5 in Bethel, Connecticut.
  • The English inventor, Peter Durand, patents the tin can as an air tight container for long-term and safe food distribution and storage. Sadly, he doesn’t think to invent a tin opener, so for the next 60 years, tins are attacked with a hammer and chisel to prise them open!
  • The first Indian restaurant opens in London when Sake Dean Mahomet establishes the Hindoostane Coffee House near Portman Square.

There’s more in our time line series! Click here for 1848 and here for 1853

Lesley – Volunteer at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Possibly the best second-hand book shop in Manchester

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