Gaskell House Blogs

It’s 1851 – Cranford year for Gaskell fans!

30th April 2021
in blog, other, People

On 13 December 1851. Our Society at Cranford is published in Charles Dickens magazine Household Words. The story begins the series which will later be collected as Cranford. Find out more in our new exhibition!

The Gaskell family has been living at 42 – now 84 – Plymouth Grove for a year having moved into the house in 1850. At the end of 1851, William Gaskell will be 46, Elizabeth 41 and their daughters will range from little 5 year old Julia to a 17 year old Marianne. 1851 is a busy year for the Gaskells – while the three parts of Mr Harrison’s Confessions are published in The Ladies Companion and Monthly Magazine between January and March, on March 12, Owens College in Manchester opens. William Gaskell has been a driving force in the establishment of the College which will be the predecessor of the University of Manchester. On 6 February Elizabeth Gaskell is in London and sits to George Richmond for her portrait. In June – on the 27th – Charlotte Bronte visits the Gaskells at home in Plymouth Grove:

The visit to Mrs Gaskell on my way home – let me down easily – though I only spent two days with her – they were very pleasant. She lives in a large – cheerful airy house, quite out of Manchester Smoke – a garden surrounds it, and as in this hot weather, the windows were kept open – a whispering of leaves and perfume of flowers always pervaded the rooms. Mrs Gaskell herself is a woman of whose conversation and company I should not soon tire – She seems to me kind, clever, animated and unaffected – her husband is a good and kind man too.

And in the wider world?

  • Queen Victoria has been on the UK throne for 14 years at the end of the year.
  • Jacques of London, a games manufacturer, introduces the card game Happy Families to the world!
  • John Ruskin publishes the first volume of The Stones of Venice – Elizabeth Gaskell is a great fan of his work.
  • Mary Shelley, the writer of Frankenstein, dies on February 1.
  • The UK census held on 30 March is the first to collect detailed information about people’s ages, date of birth, occupation and marital status.
  • On 1 May, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations is opened by Queen Victoria at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The exhibition is open until 15 October. Elizabeth Gaskell is in London in May and I can’t imagine she doesn’t visit.
  • It’s a big year for domestic appliances: on 6 May, Dr John Gorrie patents a refrigeraton machine. On 12 August, Isaac Singer is granted a US patent for his improved sewing machine.
  • On 5 June, the first part of the 40 part serialisation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published in The National Era.
  • Arthur Evans, who will grow up to become an eminent archaeologist and discover the palace of Knossos on Crete, is born on 8 July.
  • William Thackeray lectures on the English Humourists in Manchester in October
  • On 18 October, the London publisher Richard Bentley publishes Herman Melville’s The Whale, published in the US the following month as Moby Dick – the Whale.
  • JMW Turner, the visionary artist, dies on 19 December this year.

If you enjoyed this, read what’s happening in Gaskell world in 1848!

Lesley – House Volunteer

I'm afraid we must do some shopping

Elizabeth Gaskell 1863