‘Do you know I believe the garden will be a great delight in our new house... and one may get out without a bonnet which is quite a blessing.’

– Elizabeth Gaskell, 1850

It was also a place where she could truly relax (‘without a bonnet’) away from social scrutiny. Over the years, she frequently wrote to her friends and family with news of the successes and failures familiar to any gardener. The ‘common flowers’ that she planted included pinks, carnations, campions, canterbury bells, ‘thunbergias’ and gladioli. The list of vegetables was no less ambitious, although beans ‘did not answer’ (a problem with the clay soil?) and so she tried peas instead. Other homegrown vegetables included cress, radishes, lettuces and cauliflowers.

As well as growing vegetables, the Gaskells had fresh eggs from their poultry, bacon from their pig and when Elizabeth bought a cow (‘such a pet’) to graze in the field next door, they could supply their own milk and butter too.