Taking a Zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

I was invited on a zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in exchange for a review. All images and opinions are my own.

In just 12 short months, Covid-19 has changed the way we live in so many ways. Previously I’d been entirely unable to work from home, I was fairly allergic to Zoom calls and wearing a mask was only something bank robbers ever considered.

Whilst it has been the most horrific year in living memory, the rise in the popularity of Zoom has meant that we’ve been able to explore places and do things we may never have thought of doing before.

Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

One evening last week I took a virtual tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, and because we could Zoom in from anywhere, I was joined by people from far-flung places like New Mexico and Missouri in the USA, Australia, the Netherlands; as well as Sheffield, Sale and Stockport.

Elizabeth Gaskell was one of the UK’s most important Victorian authors. She wrote a number of novels including Mary Barton, North and South, Cranford and Ruth. In 1850, she and her husband William and surviving children moved to this beautiful villa on Plymouth Grove in Manchester. In this house she continued to write and play host to some of the most famous literary names in the Victorian age.

Taking a Zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

After Elizabeth died in 1865, the house on Plymouth Grove remained in the Gaskell family until 1913. It then stood empty for many years and fell into disrepair. The University of Manchester bought it in 1969 for use by international students; and in 2004 it was acquired by the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust for the princely sum of £1. They then raised the money needed to restore it. Exterior renovations were completed in 2011 and the house is now open to the public. Except there’s a pandemic on, so its doors are closed for now.

Thankfully the good people who run Elizabeth Gaskell’s House have taken things online and they’ve fully embraced the Zoom meeting. Over the last few months they’ve put on a busy programme of online events, ranging from book groups and readings; to recitals and online talks. I joined them last week to take a virtual tour of the house.

Taking a Zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

The tour was run by two incredibly knowledgeable volunteers; Diane Duffy, a researcher and tour guide, and volunteer, Anne. It was very well done. We all Zoomed in at 7pm and we were welcomed by Anne who asked us all to mute ourselves and turn out cameras off before we began. We were urged to use the chat function to ask any questions and there were lots of opportunities to do so.

Using a PowerPoint and a range of photos, Diane took us on an hour long tour of the ground floor of this Grade II listed house. We explored the Morning Room, William’s study, the Drawing Room and the Dining Room which was also where Elizabeth used to write her novels and letters. Diane told us all about the house and the family; with lots of anecdotes and little details about them all. I felt almost as I knew them by the end of the tour.

Taking a Zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Whilst the house is closed to the public, they are taking to opportunity to restore Elizabeth’s bedroom. We had a quick glimpse of this, but it’s made me keen to visit in person when I can to see it in all its glory.

The online tour was a fantastic way to visit the house; especially if you don’t live in Manchester or plan to visit soon. It cost just £10 which is excellent value; the amount of information and detail we were given has made me want to delve deeper into her life and read more of her books.

The online tours are a great way to support this historic house. We are living through trying times and their income from visitors has been very much reduced. The £10 gets you an hour long tour with a very knowledgable tour guide and  10% off purchases in the online shop.

Taking a Zoom tour of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

I’ve visited Elizabeth Gaskell’s House before for a craft afternoon, which was fantastic. I’d been meaning to come back and take the tour again. This has whetted my appetite to return and take the tour in person. I fully recommend these online tours, they’re a fabulous thing to do on a rainy lockdown evening.

For more information about Elizabeth Gaskell’s House and their online tours and events, visit their website.

*apologies for the not great photos which were taken of my laptop screen. The house is stunning in real life and not at all blurry.

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Here in Manchester we are lucky enough to have a large number of historic buildings and houses. Hidden in plain sight on one of the busiest roads leading to the city centre is Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The house is the former home of the famous author and her family. Her novels include Mary Barton, Cranford, North and South, Ruth and Wives and Daughters. I went along to enjoy a “crafternoon tea” session in the Servant’s Hall. Craft, tea, cake and a beautiful historic house – what’s not to like?

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House have been running Crafternoon Tea sessions for the last few months. I’ve really wanted to go to them but I was a bit worried that my sewing skills were not good enough; but I need not have worried. I went along to try my hand at some Victorian Crazy Patchwork; a craft I’ve never heard of  before but one which is ideal for people like me who have fairly basic sewing skills.

The Crafternoon Tea sessions are run by talented volunteers. The Victorian Crazy Patchwork class was run by Margot, a very experienced and helpful teacher who provided everything we needed to create our own crazy patchwork. Margot began by talking us through, step by step through the process. One of the best things about Victorian Crazy Patchwork is if your sewing isn’t especially neat, it doesn’t matter because the stitching is covered by the fabric, making it ideal for beginners.

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

Victorian Crazy Patchwork, Margot explained, was a style of patchwork which fine Victorian ladies would do to occupy themselves. They usually used scraps of silk from old dresses or from dressmaking to create colourful patchworks. I remember my husband’s Grandma having what I now know to be a Victorian Crazy Patchwork cushion.

Margot gave us all a pack including a template, a piece of calico and a notebook we could cover with our patchwork. There was a large bag of silk pieces on the table and we all selected a few pieces for our patchwork. We cut out our hexagon shaped centre pieces and stitched them onto our calico; then we cut pieces of contrasting silk and stitched them on. Sewing them so the stitches are underneath (this is hard to explain but hopefully you can get the idea from the photo below).

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

Around half way through the session we stopped and made our way into the tea room for a pot of tea and a slice of really good cake. The tea room is a lovely airy space with the original stone floors from Elizabeth Gaskell’s days at the house. It was the hottest day of the year so far and it was the perfect place for some cool respite from the temperature outside.

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

After we’d been fueled by tea and cake, we returned to the Servants Hall to carry on with our crazy patchwork. It soon became clear that despite my best efforts, I wouldn’t be able to finish it in the two and a half hour craft session. Thankfully Margot let me take everything I needed to finish it at home. In fairness, it was ambitious of me to try to finish within the time. But I left armed with the skills and knowledge to finish off my work at home.

The Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House costs £19 and includes everything you need to create your craft as well as a hot drink and cake. Keep an eye on their website for more craft and literary events. I do know they have a few limited places left on their Crochet Afghan Squares Crafternoon Tea on 17th May and Paisley Woodblock Printing Crafternoon Tea on 21st June 2018.

Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester
My not quite finished Victorian Crazy Patchwork.

I had the most lovely relaxing afternoon. Even though I went by myself, the rest of the crafters around the table were all very nice and chatty. It was lovely to switch off and concentrate on sewing the patchwork and enjoy the peaceful and historic surroundings of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is located at 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester, M13 9LW

7 Things to do in Manchester – Summer 2017

Over the last few weeks I’ve been studiously jotting down some fun things to do in Manchester over the summer 2017 holidays. My list seems to go on forever, so it’s time I wrote it down properly and shared it with you, dear reader. As ever, if you have any more suggestions for summer fun, please comment below!

A Summer of Victorian Entertainment for Children and Families at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is throwing open its doors this summer to the world of the Victorian children at play. Every Wednesday in the summer holidays, a range of activities will take visitors back in time to when the Gaskell’s daughters would have played in the House. Highlights include circus skills, Victorian theatre and costumed actors with a Victorian craft to take home for each child.

There’s so much going on at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House this summer, visit their website for more information and to pre-book for special events

intu Trafford Centre turns fairy tale dreams into reality with Princess-Sing-Alongs

A whole host of beautiful princesses from fairy tales are set to descend on intu Trafford Centre this summer. Every Tuesday join one of their Princess-Sing-Alongs. Wannabe Princesses (and Princes) are invited to join a host of beautiful princesses for a sing-along in the Main Dome of the centre every Tuesday at 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm.

Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White will be performing at the centre, welcoming fans with the chance to sing along to their hearts’ content.

7 Things to do in Manchester - Summer 2017

Manchester BookBench Trail

Manchester City Council and the National Literacy Trust have joined forces with Wild in Art to bring their iconic BookBench sculptures to Manchester. The BookBenches will be displayed in cultural hubs, leisure and shopping centres across Manchester. Families will be able to discover the BookBenches by following a trail and complete quizzes and activities as they so do. Many of the venues will host reading-themed events throughout summer 2017.

The Lowry, Salford Quays

This August The Lowry hosts an incredible selection of family shows. In the Quays theatre they have a month long run of Room on the Broom (Tue 1 – Sun 27 Aug), the well-loved classic The Jungle Book (Tue 29 Aug – Sat 2 Sept), and in the Lyric theatre you’ll find the kooky clan from The Addams Family (Tue 29 Aug – Sat 9 Sept).

The Lowry will also open its doors on Sat 5 August from 10am until 4pm for a summer 2017 Open Day, with free activities that enable visitors of all ages to explore the venue in a completely new way.

7 Things to do in Manchester - Summer 2017

Digital Skills for all the family in Cheshire!

Drop in and get making at these free and family friendly hands on workshops at different Cheshire East libraries across the borough. Choose from – Animations in Minecraft, Build an Infrared Detector Circuit, Interactive LED art and PatternBeats.

Not forgetting “Crewecraft” – a festival of all things Minecraft in Crewe – join one of five public interactive sessions where you can build a part of Crewe’s heritage.

Full information on venues, dates and times and how to book your free place for all these workshops – http://www.shift-digital.co.uk/events/

Kids’ Cookery Camps with Food Sorcery 

Kids aged 7-14 years can book a place on on one the Food Sorcery Kids’ Cookery Camps this summer. The workshops help kids gain the confidence, skills and independence they need to get cooking.

Chef Jason gets the kids prepping, cooking and eating tasty, nutritious food in a fun and friendly environment. He teaches timing and safety in the kitchen and encourages creativity with flavours. The menus will vary, but there is always be a vegetarian option available and special diets can be catered for if discussed in advance.

For more information, visit the Food Sorcery website.

Summer at the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry is always a hive of activity over the summer. This year is no exception – there’s plenty to keep your family occupied! From cheering your team on at the Science Showdown, to getting your game face on at Power Up! What about tinkerering and creating at MakeFest too? With their special events and exhibitions; as well as the usual halls of fun and a steam engine ride – they’ve got everything you need for a fun-filled, family day out.

Visit the MSI website for full listings.

7 Things to do in Manchester - Summer 2017
Picture:  © Jason Lock

These are just a few of the many, many things to do in Manchester over the summer. You can catch up on our plans for the summer holiday on our summer bucket list. But if you have any other suggestions for things to do, please comment in the box below!

Have a great summer 2017!