Changing City

How has Manchester changed?

At the end of the late 1700s, Manchester had a population of 89,000. A hundred years later Manchester’s population had grown to 700,000!

Manchester’s population rose quickly during this time because the Industrial Revolution created lots of jobs in the city. This meant the city needed more housing and had to grow to cope with its quickly rising population.

Elizabeth describes the city in her novel, North and South, “Here and there a great oblong many-windowed factory stood up, like a hen among her chickens, puffing out black ‘unparliamentary’ smoke.”

Dinner Hour, Wigan, by Eyre Crowe. This image is often used on the front cover of Elizabeth’s novel, North and South.

The land next to the Gaskells’ house used to be a field, which the family rented for their cow. Many areas like this one used to be surrounded by fields. We believe the Gaskells would be supportive of the city’s expansion and proud of the diverse community that surrounds 84 Plymouth Grove today.


What does the Hydrangea flower symbolise?

The Purple Hydrangea

The purple hydrangea represents urban and social change, like that which we can still see around us today. It may be a little noisier now than it was in the 1850s, but we are sure the Gaskell family would have loved being at the heart of the hustle and bustle of this diverse community.

#Game – How well can you read a Victorian map?

OS map c1850
84 Plymouth Grove in 1850 (OS map)

Using the map above and looking around you:

  • Can you find the other house that is still standing?
  • Can you work out which field on the map is now Swinton Grove park?
  • Can you find the main entrance you used to get into the house today on the map?

Try it at home!

Even though the city has grown so much, and is still growing today, there is still so much we can do to help nature thrive and encourage wildlife to visit our gardens, yards and even balconies. Click the link below to watch the Natural History Museum’s quick and easy tutorial about how you can make suet cakes to feed the birds near your home and help nature thrive.

And we've got a house. Yes! we really have

Elizabeth Gaskell, 1850