North and South

Gaskell House Blogs

North and South Season: Events about the classic novel and TV series

10th November 2021
in blog, blogsNnews, Events, Gaskell House Blogs

Please note that these events took place in 2022 but recordings are available. Please see the link to our Frequently Asked Questions for more information FAQS.

He shook hands with Margaret. He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.” North and South, 1855

We celebrated the classic North and South with a series of events exploring the story, industrial background, tv and fan fiction of one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s most popular and enduring works, including her tense relationship with editor Charles Dickens. Written in 1855 and following the story of heroine Margaret Hale and her relationship with millowner John Thornton, it has been described as a ‘condition of England’ novel. There were partnership events with Jane Austen’s House and The Dickens Society.

You may also like to support Elizabeth Gaskell’s House by purchasing our unique range of North and South products in the online shop.

Previous events

All previous event recordings are available so take a look at our FAQ and get in touch.

North and South: An Introduction

Our new season of North and South events begins with Elizabeth William’s introduction to one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s best known and most loved novels. One of the first industrial novels to describe class strife, it follows heroine Margaret Hale as she moves from the rural south to the manufacturing north and her conflicted relationship with mill owner John Thornton. Find out more about the context in which the book was written, including industrial Manchester and Elizabeth’s personal life, and arguments with her editor, Charles Dickens.

A Tale of Two Houses – Lizzy Bennet and Margaret Hale

In 2022 we launched an exciting new partnership with Jane Austen’s House, exploring the work, life and times of two giants of nineteenth century literature, Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. In this lively online event we take a closer look at two of literature’s best loved heroines – Lizzy Bennet from ‘Pride & Prejudice‘ and Margaret Hale from ‘North and South‘.

Discover how our heroines each appear to defy convention in these classic novels by Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. Join Libby Tempest, Chair of the Gaskell Society, and Ellora Sutton, Creative Engagement Officer at Jane Austen’s House, to take a closer look at the comparisons between Lizzy and Margaret as they speak their minds to shape the world around them, and enjoy readings from two blockbuster novels of the nineteenth century.

North and South: A TV Classic

The BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel was a surprise instant hit with television audiences when it aired in 2004. A key part of its appeal was the performance of the two leads, Richard Armitage as smouldering mill owner John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe as heroine Margaret Hale. Libby Tempest explores why we all love this adaptation and compares it with the original novel before asking the question, what effect did the success of everyone’s favourite adaptation have on Elizabeth Gaskell’s reputation?

Online Talk: John Thornton – A Gentleman?

He loved her and would love her: and defy her and this miserable bodily pain.North and South, 1855

Our popular North and South season continues as we ponder the appeal of mill-owner and hero John Thornton. Beyond his good looks (and those of Richard Armitage that played him so well in the BBC TV adaptation), what is it that continues to attract about John Thornton? How did Elizabeth Gaskell reveal his inner life and why does he remain relevant to readers and audiences today? Join writer and journalist Caroline Malcolm-Boulton as she considers why we all love John Thornton and asks the question, is he a gentleman?

Milton and Manchester: The backdrop to North and South

The romance of Elizabeth Gaskell’s famous novel North and South is set against the harsh industrial backdrop of her own city of Manchester, thinly disguised as ‘Milton’ in her writing. Her description of industrial strife between millowner John Thornton and his workers, and heroine Margaret Hale’s sympathy for the working classes has led it to be described as a ‘condition of England’ novel. So, what was the real social and industrial backdrop to North and South? Was Thornton’s factory lockout based on real events? How did Elizabeth imagine class conflict could be resolved? Join Prof Michael Sanders from Manchester University to find out more.

Online Talk: North and South with Sandy Welch – Adapting a TV Classic

We are delighted to welcome Bafta-award winning writer Sandy Welch as she joins us for a night to explore her classic BBC TV adaptation of North and South, starring Richard Armitage (John Thornton) and Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret Hale). Screenwriter Sandy is responsible for top TV adaptations including Our Mutual friendJane Eyre and Emma. Her adaptation of North and South was a huge hit, perfectly encapsulating the story, themes and atmosphere of Elizabeth Gaskell’s original novel. So how did she approach the work? What did she chose to leave out? Why does the TV series have such a big fan base today? Now is your chance to hear the inside story from this incredible writer on the anniversary of Elizabeth Gaskell’s birthday.

The evening was hosted by writer and journalist Caroline Malcolm-Boulton.

North and South – Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell

In partnership with The Dickens Society

One of Elizabeth Gaskell’s most famous guests at 84 Plymouth Grove was that giant of Victorian literature, Charles Dickens. Two of the biggest names in English literature regularly corresponded from 1850 onwards and Charles Dickens edited Elizabeth in his weekly magazine Household Words as she wrote her much-loved novel, North and South. So did they actually get on? Did he influence her writing North and South? How did their work reflect shared concerns around poverty and class in ‘condition of England’ novels like Hard Times and North and South? Did he really say ‘If I was Mr G, O Heaven how I would beat her’? Join Dr Lydia Craig (The Dickens Society) and Anthony Burton (Elizabeth Gaskell’s House) for all the answers and more in this fascinating exploration of two ground-breaking writers.

After the event attendees will also be provided with a link to further information on the Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens papers at John Rylands Research Institute and Library.

Online Panel- Why do we love North and South? Literature, Love and Lust

Finale to our North and South Season

Is it the love story? Perhaps it’s the independence and curiosity of the heroine Margaret Hale? What about the vulnerability of John Thornton, ‘kind yet a master’? Or maybe it’s the gritty backdrop and the fight between working people and the factory owners? Exactly what is it about North and South that has created so many fans, captured so many hearts and brought about a wealth of fanfiction? We want to know!

 Join us for this special celebration of the original book by Elizabeth Gaskell and the 2004 BBC TV series with a unique panel exploring the characters, context and legacy of this extraordinary ‘condition of England’ novel. We’re joined by journalists, fanfiction writers and researchers for readings, talks and prizes to share the love of all things North and South. We want you to have your say by putting questions to our panel – look out for more info on our social media. Speakers are writers Caroline Malcolm Boulton, Trudy Brasure, Elaine Owen and Gaskell researcher Elizabeth Williams.

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

Charlotte Brontë, on visiting 84 Plymouth Grove