The Collection

The collection at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House includes a wide range of furniture, furnishings, textiles, decorative objects, paintings and books. The majority of the collection is on display all year round within the rooms of the House and the exhibition spaces. Click here to find out about opening times and to book a visit

Some of the furnishings and objects on display belonged to the Gaskell family, whilst other furniture and fixtures were chosen using evidence from letters, auction records and other research.  For example 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 on the wall when the Gaskell family lived in the House.

Collection Highlights

Book, open on left Keats poetry book inscribed by William to Elizabeth on Dec 25th 1854. Sold in the 1914 auction. Donated to the house by Walter E Smith and Doris Kerr

Book, open in centre  – My Diary. The Early Years of my Daughter, Marianne by Elizabeth Gaskell. Originally written c1834-1835 and the only diary form that Elizabeth wrote. This copy is one of 50 copies privately printed by Clement Shorter in 1923.

The Reverend William Gaskell, 1879, By Annie Louisa Robinson.
Oil on canvas. Bequeathed by Meta Gaskell to Manchester City Art Gallery 1914.

Annie Robinson was born in Hulme, Manchester and later became Annie Swynnerton on her marriage to sculptor Joseph Swynnerton, who sculpted a bust of William Gaskell in the Portico Library. In 1922 Annie Swynnerton became the first female associate of the Royal Academy.

The painting is on Loan to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House from Manchester Art Gallery

Wedding Veil, 1832, The Elizabeth Gaskell Family Collection

The wedding veil was inherited by Marianne Gaskell, Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, who married a cousin, Thurstan Holland, in 1866. It is made from Brussels lace and would have been worn under a bonnet. The veil has been worn by generations of brides descended from Elizabeth and Marianne.

Dinner Service, c.1820
Earthenware, hand-painted and gilded. Made by Coalport pottery. Coalport Pottery was founded in 1795. This earthenware dinner service was for everyday use.

Boudoir Grand Piano, c.1890, Made by John Broadwood & Sons. Mahogany case. Lent by Mrs Elizabeth Whitehead

Elizabeth refers to it as a “semi-grand”. This piano is similar in size and appearance to the one bought by the Gaskells from John Broadwood & Sons in December 1852. Their daughters were taught by Charles Hallé, who founded the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester

If you have any specific questions about the collection please email

Collection Donations

We would welcome donations or loans of items that were sold in the 1914 auction (with evidence of providence) and any items that belonged to the Gaskell family. Please email with details.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is run by Manchester Historic Buildings Trust (charity no. 1080606) and all money gained through private tours, talks, room hire and ticket sales goes towards the ongoing maintenance and running costs of the house. If you would like to support the house with an additional donation you can do so via this link.

Collections Development Policy

You can read our Collections Development Policy via this link.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Original Manuscripts and letters

The John Rylands Library in Manchester holds the world’s most important collection of literary manuscripts by Elizabeth Gaskell, including the only complete manuscript of  Wives and Daughters and her celebrated biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë.  

The Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens MDC collection can be accessed via the John Rylands Library image viewer  here.

You can browse the collection held at the library via this link

Mr Thornton is coming to tea

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell