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‘I was brought up in a little country town, and it is my lot now to live in or rather on the borders of a great manufacturing town, but when spring days first come and the bursting leaves and sweet, earthy smells tell me that ‘Somer is ycomen in’, I feel a stirring instinct and long to be off into the deep grassy solitudes of the country.’ For more click here.
In Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel, Wives and Daughters, the setting is the small town of Hollingford; just as Knutsford’s King Street leads on to the Tatton Park gates so at Hollingford ‘… the little straggling town faded away into country on one side close to the entrance lodge of a great park where lived my Lord and Lady Cumnor’. Cumnor Towers evokes Tatton with its parkland and fine gardens. For more click here.
When Elizabeth Gaskell first mentioned Capesthorne, in a letter dated 12th May 1836, she had lunched there and found it ‘such a beautiful place – not the house which is rather shabby but the views from the park’. However, a year later, Davies Davenport who was MP for Cheshire, died and his son set about remodelling the house to the plans made by Edward Blore, architect to William IV and Queen Victoria. In 1851 when Elizabeth Gaskell met the architect and his wife at the house she was still not impressed as she believed Mrs Blore was only interested in the value of the jewellery and objets d’art. For more click here.
When Manchester was linked to Altrincham by the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway in 1849 the Cheshire countryside became more easily accessible to the Gaskells. The station, then on Railway Street, was nearer to Bowdon than the present station. For more click here.
Although it is tempting to try to link people and places from the Cheshire region in the Victorian era with fictional counterparts found in Elizabeth Gaskell’s writings, her imagination was equal to creating her own characters. For more click here.
Captain Henry Hill, a veteran of Waterloo, came to Knutsford in 1836, as a half – pay captain of the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards, to be adjutant to the Cheshire yeomanry. He was usually seen wearing the Waterloo cloak which he had bivouacked in the night before the battle of Waterloo. It could be said that the character Captain Brown from the novel Cranford was inspired by Captain Henry Hill. Like Hill, Captain Brown had fought in ‘the plumed wars’ (Napoleonic war) and was visited in Cranford by Lord Mauleverer, his former officer, possibly based on the Duke of Wellington. For more click here.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s uncle was Dr. Peter Holland of Knutsford. He had a general practice that included the gentry such as the Stanleys, the Egertons and the Gregs of Styal, along with their apprentices at Quarry Bank Mill. These aristocratic families would therefore have been familiar to Gaskell from an early age. For more click here.
Elizabeth Gaskell had a deep love of the Cheshire countryside with its leafy lanes, farms and parks. In letters she recalls happy memories of delightful picnics at Tabley Old Hall. For more click here.
If any place in Cheshire inspired Elizabeth’s love of the countryside it was surely her grandparents’ home at Sandlebridge, a few miles from Knutsford. This was a small hamlet, around the Sandle Brook that turned the water mill adjoined to a smithy. This area was part of Little Warford which merged with Great Warford; together the whole of these ancient townships scarcely amounted to more than a small village. For more click here