Welcome to the home of Elizabeth Gaskell, Manchester’s very own Literary house. A truly hands-on experience that will introduce you to the world of the writer Elizabeth Gaskell and her family through historic period rooms, Victorian style garden, expert guides and changing exhibitions.
Described by the press after her death as ‘one of the greatest female novelists of all time’ Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 and lived at 84 Plymouth Grove in Manchester with her family from 1850 until her death in 1865. She is best known for writing Cranford, North and South and the biography of her friend Charlotte Bronte.
Elizabeth welcomed guests such as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to her House and mixed with a cross section of Victorian society from the poor of the workhouse to the likes of Florence Nightingale and Charles Darwin.
Today you can browse the books in William’s study and sit where Elizabeth sat to write her famous novels and short stories. take a seat in the drawing Room and ring the servants’ bell or simply be inspired by the stories and the atmosphere of this exceptional literary house.
“I exited the house as if if just visited a dear friend. The guides were so knowledgeable and talked about the house and Elizabeth Gaskell with such warmth….” Visitor comment in February 2022
Take a seat and DO touch!
Young and old will find plenty to keep them entertained with dressing up, activity baskets, family trails led by Cranford the cat and family craft activities during school holidays. Very few objects are out of bounds and there’s always a seat to rest weary legs.
We have some furnishings and objects that belonged to the Gaskells, but the other furniture in the house is all from that period. The chintz for the curtains and loose covers have been printed from a 1850s design, and the carpets have been specially woven, using Victorian patterns preserved by a mill in Halifax. The fireplaces, sourced locally, date from around 1840 when the House was built and the light fittings have all been converted from gas to electricity. Further research identified the original paint colours and the styles of the wallpapers.
Items originally from the house are displayed, some of which are from descendants of the family, and include Elizabeth’s wedding veil, her Paisley shawls and miniatures. There is also a short introductory video about the Gaskells and the House.
Since 2021 visitors have been invited to visit Elizabeth’s bedroom on the first floor, with its elegant four poster bed and original items of clothing belonging to the Gaskell family this new room explores Elizabeth’s private side and her role as a mother. Find out more about the bedroom
We also have a new exhibition – A Love Affair with Cranford – which will run from May 21 until April 2022. This brand-new exhibition explores the enduring popularity of Cranford, the portrayal of the ‘Amazons’ who run the town, its worldwide reach from page to stage, and the many translated and illustrated editions that have been published since 1851. The exhibition will include rare editions of the book and one of the costumes worn in the BBC series by Elizabeth Gaskell’s House Patron, Dame Judi Dench. Find out more
Drink tea and read books
Enjoy tea and cake on beautiful vintage mismatched china. Choose from a selection of Gaskell novels and biographies to buy from the shop and don’t miss the legendary second-hand book sale every second Sunday of the month.
A recent visitor commented ‘How nice to come away full of cake and with a bag of books!’
How we got here
The Manchester home of Elizabeth Gaskell has been open to the public since October 2014, thanks to a major £2.5m restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and others. The House now relies on the income gained from admission fees, group visits, room hire and weddings held at the House in order to cover running costs. We are also deeply indebted to our wonderful volunteer team who enable the House is be opened.
Manchester Historic Buildings Trust was established in 1998 with the main aim of saving this Grade II* listed building. In 2004, after a long campaign, the Trust acquired the freehold. Their first priority was to make the house safe, by repairing the exterior and replacing the roof. In 2012 the Trust was given a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant. This, with other generous donations, enabled them to complete the restoration.
We aim to bring the Gaskell home to life as a part of Manchester’s community by;
- Protecting and promoting the literary and cultural heritage of the House and its visitors
- Celebrating the life and literature of Elizabeth Gaskell and her relevance today
- Valuing and promoting the Gaskell family’s role in the history of Manchester and Ardwick
- Being an educational and intellectual Hub, a place of learning and discovery
- Supporting local groups, residents and schools to use and value the House and its heritage
The Board of Trustees, staff and volunteer team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House aim to;
- Welcome visitors and volunteers of all backgrounds
- Make every visitor and volunteer feel valued
- Nurture a family and community feeling at the House
- Be an inspirational place where people can learn and share their knowledge
- Commit to sustainable business practises that reduce our impact on the environment
- Embrace our Mancunian identity –be authentic and proud of being part of this great city
In order for our unique historic house to remain open to the public we rely on the support of our enthusiastic volunteers, on donations from members of the public and the Friends of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.
We welcome donations of any size to help us to continue to develop and restore this beautiful house.
Thank you to all the funders and supporters
The restoration of Elizabeth Gaskellʼs House was made possible by support and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Bowland Charitable Trust, Cross Street Chapel, English Heritage, The Foyle Foundation, The Gaskell Society, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, Manchester City Council, Oglesby Charitable Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and numerous individuals. Our thanks to them all, and to the many dedicated people, specialists and volunteers, who have made the transformation possible.