Plymouth Grove isn’t necessarily a street where you’d expect to find one of the most important literary sites in the country.
At first glance, this part of Longsight appears to consist of typical terrace housing in a standard neighbourhood. Yet, an extraordinary building stands amid these ordinary surroundings.
Sitting across from a row of terraces with a bold blue plaque, Elizabeth Gaskell House is a rare remaining example of a suburban regency villa in Manchester.
Painted pink for a time, over the years its number has changed from 42 to 84 as more properties have squeezed in around it.
Home to local author Elizabeth Gaskell from 1850 to her death in 1865, this was where the majority of her critically significant novels were written, including the most famous, Cranford.
It’s said that Cranford was her favourite book, with Gaskell even naming her cat after it.
Ahead of its time, the story has never been out of print in its 170-year history. Throughout the pages, Gaskell champions feminist values: breaking away from period norms to focus her tale on a group of self-reliant unmarried women.
The world of Cranford has been popularised since the BBC adapted the world of Matty and Deborah Jenykns for television in 2007.
When the hit BBC1 series first aired it put Knutsford decidedly on the map, even if the town was, as Cheshire Life reported at the time, snubbed in favour of Wiltshire for filming.
Manchester’s part in the story, meanwhile, often gets overlooked.
Many will be aware of the popular TV series. But few are aware that, despite the title, it is actually a combination of three of Gaskell’s novels – Cranford, My Lady Ludlow,Mr. Harrison’s Confessions – all written during her time living in the house.
Today, the villa looks the same as it did when she was penning some of her most important work, right down to the quill and paper cast askew at her writing desk.
Whilst Gaskell lived at Plymouth Grove, she received some notable visitors, and it’s easy to imagine the likes of Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, and Harriet Beecher-Stow reclining on the chintz settees in the plus drawing room.
You can also picture Gaskell’s good friend Charlotte Bronte shyly hiding behind the drapes to avoid an over-eager caller (which we have on good authority she definitely did during one stay).
Lovingly restored by some incredibly knowledgeable volunteers from the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust, you can still step in off the street today and feel like its famous former tenant has just popped out.
They’ve painstakingly sourced every item inside using the house’s 1914 auction catalogue to make sure everything is as historically accurate as possible.
The detail is all there. And you can even ring the bells in the servant’s quarter, thanks to the efforts of one dedicated volunteer who rewired all the original bell pulls by hand.
The Study, Morning Room, Drawing Room and Dining Room have all been restored to how they were pre-1857, but the latest and most exciting new addition to the house is Gaskell’s bedroom – a project that kept the volunteers going through the past year’s successive lockdowns.
The focus of their energies during Covid, the restoration of Elizabeth Gaskell’s most private space was not easy to pull off – especially with borders and shops firmly closed. Still, they managed it, drawing on contacts and friends to help work around the issues 2020 threw at them.
The end result is something really special: a near-perfect recreation of the room in which Elizabeth would’ve dressed her children, written her personal letters, and maybe even parts of her iconic novels.
It’s open to visit now every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11am-4.30pm.
Tickets for a year’s admission are priced at just £5.50 for adults and £4.50 for senior citizens and students – and are well worth hanging on to for book lovers, who won’t want to miss the second-hand book sale that takes place here every month.
According to Ticketmaster, this will be the seating plan for the AO Arena for Peter Kay’s gigs.
It’s a fully seated tour but every block is set to be in use.
Venue security and requirements
The show is strictly for people aged 15+.
The AO Arena has a few strict policies to keep gig-goers safe, so make sure to check entry requirements carefully before you travel.
For example, only one small bag per person is allowed, and bags like backpacks, travel cases and laptop bags are not permitted inside the arena.
All bags are scanned on entry to check for prohibited items like laser pens, flares, projectiles, weapons, drugs and alcohol, and even selfie sticks.
Featured image: Publicity picture
Man uncovers long lost photos in charity shop depicting historic suffragette march
Whilst digging away in a charity shop, a man has uncovered a set of old Victorian era glass slides depicting what appears to be Women’s Sunday – a suffragette march held in London, organised by Moss Side’s own Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Amongst a heap of slides that appear to be taken sometime around the early 1900s, one depicts a large group featuring women in the signature stripy hats worn by the protest group.
What’s more their new owner, Ray Newman, has even suggested that one of the photos may depict Emmeline Pankhurst herself.
Writing on Twitter, he shared a thread of the images with his followers: adding short commentary to each one.
One the photo in question, he comments: “If you zoom in on the woman in dark clothing seen looking towards the camera from between two PCs she looks like Emmeline Pankhurst, or am I fooling myself?”
Others have chimed in with suggestions as to the date of the photograph, with one writing: “The boater straw hats plus mutton sleeves equals c.1910.”
Given that the Women’s Sunday protest was held just two years prior to this in 1908, it does seem possible that this incredibly old photograph has captured one of the biggest moments in the suffragette’s history.
The event, organised by Pankhurst’s WSPU, featured the organisation’s colours (purple, white and green) for the first time in public. In days leading up to the event, over 10,000 scarves in the colours were sold at two shillings and elevenpence each, whilst men donned ties in solidarity.
Held to persuade the then Liberal government to support votes for women, the march is thought to have been the largest demonstration to be held until then in the country – drawing around 30,000 women marched to Hyde Park in seven processions.
Of course, the photos not being dated or marked in any way, it is hard to know if these really are images of Emmeline Pankhurst and the historic march but there are quite a few people online speculating that it could well be.
Several have pointed to the seemingly large police presence (and one person claims to have counted eleven officers), suggesting that that could indeed point to it being a photograph of a large suffragette protest.
Elsewhere amongst the collection of photos, images show a stately home, school or institution with flamingos outside, what appears to be a boy scout troop or group of cadets armed with rifles, boaters on the water at Alexandra Park, and a number of people posing in period dress.
Writing above a picture that depicts an old British high street, Ray comments on how the glass slides are tricky to scan adding that he had to “do it with my phone against a bright white screen.”
He continues: “This is a high street… somewhere… c.1910, I’d guess. I can see a sign for an inn with an ‘excellent motor garage’ but can’t work out any more than that.”
Above another, he said: “A stately home, school or institution. There are statues of flamingos on the left. Definitely haunted. (House and slide.)”
Offering a fascinating look into a lost world, some of the images are over 100 years old and taken when photography was something of a new art form. Unlike today, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, to own a camera was something of a rarity – making these images even more intriguing.
If you would like to see the full thread of pictures uncovered by Ray, you can do so by clicking here.