What is now the tearoom was the kitchen, where meals were cooked and water was heated over a coal fired range. The walls were whitewashed each year to remove the grime of cooking and make the room lighter. At the rear of the kitchen, a flue carried heat up into the conservatory overhead. Next to the kitchen was the servants’ hall, where the servants had their meals once the family had finished theirs. The functions of other spaces in the basement are not known. Undoubtedly there were storerooms for wine and coal and a laundry.

Ann Hearn

She is a dear good valuable friend.’– Elizabeth Gaskell, 1865

Elizabeth’s maid, Ann Hearn, was already a vital member of the Gaskell household when the family moved to Plymouth Grove. She not only looked after the little girls, but also helped Elizabeth with her clothes and the endless work of sewing and mending. In the years that followed, when Elizabeth travelled abroad, Hearn was invariably at her side. Perhaps most telling are Elizabeth’s reports of the chaos that ensued whenever Hearn was away from Plymouth Grove.

In 1855, Hearn went home for Christmas for the first time in 12 years, and Elizabeth reported that the house was ‘all bustle and confusion’ and that she found herself ‘in an unusual state of busy-ness’.

Elizabeth’s fond references to Hearn provide a glimpse of their servant-friend relationship. Certainly, Elizabeth depended on her loyal servant and, in turn, Hearn was assured of her mistress’s concern for her wellbeing. Hearn stayed in service at Plymouth Grove for some 50 years.