A new exhibition has opened at Elizabeth Gaskell House, exploring how Elizabeth Gaskell represented her home city.

Tales of Manchester Life – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester looks at the impact of her writing and novels from Victorian times to the present.  The exhibition features research carried out by a team of volunteers who support Elizabeth Gaskell House.  Visitors will find interactive features, maps of the locations around Victoria Manchester which inspired her, a tea party corner and more.

Elizabeth Gaskell reflected the world around her in her writing as she witnessed Manchester thriving on the one hand, as the world’s first industrial city and on the other, a place where the working class were living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Her work had a startling effect in its own time and was so painstakingly accurate that it was said to have pricked the conscience of the nation’, but as a woman the influence and importance of her writing has not been recognised by history in the way that it has for her contemporaries such as Charles Dickens.

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Elizabeth went into meticulous detail to describe her characters and the world that they occupied, even using Lancashire dialect in the dialogue. And it’s possible to plot some of the events that Elizabeth witnessed in Victorian Manchester paralleling subjects that appeared in her novels. For example, she moved to the city in 1832, the same year that a cholera epidemic broke out and where the world’s first inter-city passenger railway line from Manchester to Liverpool had opened in 1830, both of which feature in her novel Mary Barton. She was a radical campaigner who supported change and had a role within the foundations of the trade union movement, and in writing works such as North and South she used the power of her voice to express her opinion and shine a light on the ‘miserable living’ and ‘crowded dwellings’ that resulted in thousands dying due to the deplorable sanitation.

Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd, Director of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, says, “Visitors to Tales of Manchester Life will enjoy a fascinating insight into the mind of Elizabeth Gaskell, the world of Victorian Manchester and why her novels continue to make sure a powerful contribution. She had the skill not only to entertain the reader, but through fascinating detail and incredible observations, she has given us a unique window through to the past.”

When does Tales of Manchester Life – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester run at Elizabeth Gaskell House?

Tales of Manchester Life – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Manchester runs at Elizabeth Gaskell House from Sunday 2 April 2023 until April 2024.  Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is open every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11:00am to 4:30pm. Entry is £7.00 for adults and free for children under 16, when accompanied by an adult.