The Manchester home of Elizabeth Gaskell, the Victorian novelist and short story writer, is to be restored thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.85m. The house, which dates from the 1830s, had stood empty for several years and was on English Heritage's register of buildings at risk.
Although little original furniture belonging to the Gaskells remains, the Gaskell Society has carried out extensive research into what the family owned, and will be filling the house with appropriate Victorian pieces, and authentic wallpaper and decorations. As well as being open to the public, the building will also be used for concerts, and available for corporate hospitality to help pay for the running costs.
The house was occupied by the Gaskell family from 1850 until the death of Meta Gaskell, Elizabeth's second daughter, in 1913.
We've got a house. Yes! We really have. And if I had neither conscience nor prudence I should be delighted, for it certainly is a beauty... You must come and see us in it, dearest Tottie, and make me see 'the wrong the better cause' and that it is right to spend so much ourselves on so purely a selfish thing as a house is, while so many are wanting.The house's seven bedrooms may have explained the relatively high rent of £150 a year – at the time her husband William Gaskell's income as a priest was £300 a year. Elizabeth joked that the expense of the house would bankrupt them:
My dear! It's £150 a year, and I dare say we shall be ruined; and I've already asked after the ventilation of the new Borough Gaol. . guardian/elizabeth-gaskell-manchester-house-restored