The Restoration of Plymouth Grove

Instead, the contents were dispersed in a six-day sale, and the house itself was sold to Charles William Harper, a manufacturing chemist with business premises on the nearby Stockport Road.

Like the Gaskells before them, the Harpers were a large and hospitable family, who continued to live in the house for many years until Charles’s remaining two daughters moved away. At that point, the house and land could well have been sold to a developer. Fortunately, in 1968, it was instead purchased by Manchester University to provide accommodation for the International Society.

In 2004 Manchester Historic Buildings Trust bought the freehold and fundraising and restoring the house to its present condition began. Substantial grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage (among others) enabled the Trust to open the home of Elizabeth Gaskell and her family to the public in October 2014.

An examination of the fabric of the house revealed evidence of 19th century paint colours and wallpaper patterns. Elizabeth’s letters and other sources have given us more clues to the furnishing and decoration, helping to recreate a middle-class house of 1860. Meta’s generosity in bequeathing important works of art and other objects to Manchester institutions has enabled the Trust temporarily to ‘repatriate’ a number of pieces that previously lived here.