The Garden

Our award-winning garden has been planted to show you the sort of garden that the Gaskell family enjoyed and is now an urban oasis filled with plants and wildlife.

Volunteer gardeners have created what you see today using period plants where possible, with particular reference to Elizabeth Gaskell’s writings and the layout is based on a 1850s map of Manchester which shows the paths and planting areas.

The garden today is fully accessible with flat, wide pathways. We also have benches and lawn areas if you want to bring a picnic or just want to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds. Over the summer you can enjoy Victorian garden games on the lawn and our family garden trail is available all year round via QR codes.

We are very proud that the garden achieved a Gold award in the 2023 Britain in Bloom awards.

The Garden and the Gaskells

The Gaskell family were attracted to the house on Plymouth Grove because it was on the edge of town with a large garden, which the whole family could enjoy.  There was space to grow flowers and vegetables, and it had the added attraction of a field where they could keep a cow, a pig and poultry.  When the Gaskells took up residence in 1850, it was a typical villa garden of the period.

Elizabeth wrote in 1850 about the garden; ‘Do you know I believe the garden will be a great delight in our new house. Clay soil it will be, and there is no help for it, but it will be gay and bright with common flowers; and it is quite shut in, – and one may get out without a bonnet which is quite a blessing.’

A quote by Charlotte Bronte describing Elizabeth Gaskell's house and garden

The garden at Plymouth Grove was immensely important to Elizabeth. This was where she could grow flowers and vegetables. It was also a place where she could truly relax (‘without a bonnet’) away from social scrutiny. The garden, somewhat bigger than today, at Plymouth Grove, gave her great pleasure and she made exciting plans for planting. In addition to the large garden, there was also a greenhouse attached to the house during the Gaskells’ time. This was heated from the kitchen in the basement.

Visiting the Garden Today

Family Garden Trail

Scan the QR codes to learn fun facts, play games, tell jokes and find out ways you can help to support wildlife and reduce your carbon emission at home. During the summer we also have Victorian games on the lawn and you are welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy in the garden.

The front Garden is a collection of hollies interspersed with shrubs, herbaceous plants and seasonal bedding plants.

The Fernery, to the right, at the front of the house is an informal area of native ferns and shade-loving plants. It is also a great habitat for insects.

The driveway is lined with espaliered apple and pear trees (all varieties developed in the north-west) with a lavender hedge, under-planted with crocus and annuals.

A tea rose is planted on the rear of the old Coach House. Elizabeth references yellow roses in her novel Ruth to show a positive change between characters and circumstances. ‘The yellow rose had clambered up to the window of Mr Benson’s bedroom, and its blossom-laden branches were supported by a pear tree rich in autumnal fruit.’

The pergola is covered in roses and clematis. The best time to see and smell the pergola is in May and June.

The vegetable and fruit plot is next to the pergola and is planted with period varieties of vegetables and fruit.

‘I led the way into the Kitchen-Garden. It was in the first promise of a summer profuse in vegetables and fruits’ 
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis, 1864

The rear wall is covered with climbers and with spring bulbs planted beneath.

The long-boarder, at the left of the house, has a variety of small trees, flowering shrubs and perennials chosen with scent in mind.

On the steps at the back of the House we have a collection of pots with a changing display.

Take a little piece of our garden home with you.

You can purchase a variety of plants and cuttings from the garden at our plant sale.

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 and garden. If you would like to support the House with an additional donation you can do so via this link.

a whispering of leaves and perfume of flowers always pervaded the rooms

Charlotte Brontë, on visiting 84 Plymouth Grove