Book Group Tours
A group of eleven of us came on a book club outing to Elizabeth Gaskell’s House one November evening.
The house itself and volunteers Louanne and Jane gave us a warm welcome in from the cold evening air. We chatted in the cheerful tearoom briefly until all had arrived, and our tour of the house could begin.
Louanne is a Trustee of the house and a fount of knowledge about the Gaskell family (including William and Elizabeth’s four daughters),and the history of the house itself( from its completion in the 1830s to it’s current incarnation as a historic house celebrating Elizabeth Gaskell s life and work, Victorian Manchester’s intellectual and architectural life).
The tour lasts forty five minutes to an hour and it gave us all plenty of time to admire the fabric of the rooms, and their contents- some original, others lent by the family and other Manchester galleries; yet others acquired with curatorial advice and reference to Elizabeth’s letters, to sympathetically reflect the likely look and layout of Elizabeth’s family home. You can really imagine the family living here ,the parents writing and teaching, children playing, servants working, Elizabeth taking tea and hosting dinner parties.
As a recent fan of William, Elizabeth’s husband (who was a Unitarian minister at Cross Street Chapel) l particularly enjoyed the tour of his office, with its portrait, and the numerous books surrounding his desk. It is easy to imagine him ,with a blazing fire lit, writing a lecture on literature to deliver at the Mechanics Institute, or tutoring a local working man to join the Unitarian ministry.
After our opportunity to ask Louanne any additional questions, we repaired, in a most ladylike manner, to the Tea Room where Jane had laid out our tea, wine and cakes. We were well looked after and noise levels rose as we discussed our knowledge of Elizabeth’s books, before a studious silence fell once we went upstairs again, to view the informative Ruskin exhibition ( on until June 2020).
I’d strongly recommend this format( house tour,cakes,exhibition) to any group who would like a fascinating two hour glimpse into the Manchester home of this eminent Victorian.
Tours for groups( minimum of ten) are available any weekday evenings or during the day on Monday, Tuesday, Friday or Saturday daytime’s by prior arrangement. £15 with, £12 without,wine.
Nina Fedorski, volunteer and book group member