Gaskell House Blogs

The Transformation Begins

21st October 2020
in blog, blogsNnews, Collection

Following on from our September bedroom update, we’ve made some very visible progress this month, and those visitors lucky enough to visit in the last week, will have seen this for themselves. The painting and wallpapering is now pretty much complete thanks to professional decorator Marty Cooper, who volunteered his wallpapering skills and time; and what a difference it has made!

This will be the last time you will see the room until it’s fully transformed but you can already see the difference that this Little Greene Heritage Wallpaper has made to the room.

A suitable three door mahogany wardrobe has been purchased, and we are awaiting delivery (no photos yet). But while we wait for the wardrobe to arrive, the team has been researching and shopping for clothing to fill it, starting with this stunning silk dress from around 1850. The condition is immaculate and the quality of hand-stitching is impeccable.

We also received a visit from Sarah Prince (Elizabeth’s Great x 4 Granddaughter), who has kindly agreed to loan some items of clothing to the House that belonged to Elizabeth and her daughter Marianne. These will be displayed in the bedroom, and include lace work, a hood and parasol. (More on these next year when the bedroom opens.)

Keeping with the family link, a number of lace items belonging to a member of the Gaskell family, on William’s side, have been purchased via eBay. The lace collar, shown below, has been bought and donated to the House by volunteer Diane Duffy in memory of her husband, who was also volunteer at the House. (See a separate blog for more information on this lace and providence.)

Lace collar owned by a member of the Gaskell family on William’s side.

One of key themes we will be exploring in the bedroom is motherhood, and the following image of the Madonna Della Sedia engraved by Johann Heinrich Petersen in the 1850s (copying Raphael’s painting from 1541), has been purchased and donated to the house by our Chair of Trustees, Frank Galvin, to reflect this.

The reason for having this in the bedroom is that Elizabeth wrote in a letter in 1852 about how a bedroom had been prepared for Polly (Marianne’s nickname) to return home saying “I have been making this said room as nice as I could for her – bookshelves, table, inkstand… engraving of that beautiful Madonna della Sedia.” So we know for definite that the Gaskell family had this image in the house, and that Elizabeth admired it. Further to this, the image also gets a mention in Chapter 2 of Cranford (we will explore this further in a later blog), so it must have held some importance to Elizabeth.

Madonna Della Sedia engraved by Johann Heinrich Petersen

Finally, we can be pretty confident that Elizabeth would have never been without a book close by on her bedside, so as a starting point, we have purchased an edition of Fireside Travels by James Russell Lowell which has thus far been missing from our collection. James Russell Lowell was a friend of Charles Eliot Norton, and Charles sent Elizabeth a copy of this book. More books will follow soon….

So what’s next?
The carpet, curtains/drapes and bed are top of the list now. Discussions and debates are underway as we investigate some tantalising information and research. Our initial exploration into appropriate beds of the time and from ‘hints’ in Elizabeth’s letters we had presumed that Elizabeth and William had a half-tester bed, but looking back at the 1913 auction catalogue (when the contents of the house were sold), it states that there was a four poster bed up for auction in what was Elizabeth’s bedroom.

We are still raising funds to complete the restoration, so if you would like to support the project you can do so via this link.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far with donations of money, objects and time – we could not have got this far without you!

Our plan at present is to have the bedroom open to visitors and couples getting married at the House in late January 2021.

Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd
House Manager

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

Charlotte Brontë, on visiting 84 Plymouth Grove