Our Society was founded by the inspirational and much-missed local historian and Elizabeth Gaskell aficionado, Joan Leach. Joan was Elizabeth Gaskell’s tireless and passionate champion, establishing the society in September 1985, after attending a literary lunch to mark the 175th Anniversary of her birth. Now, some thirty years later, we have members from all over the world and a branch of the Society in Japan. The Gaskell Society was a driving force behind the restoration of Elizabeth’s beautiful Manchester home at 84 Plymouth Grove – now open to visitors – and her recognition in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey (pictured above).
Although we don’t have a formal headquarters, the Society’s spiritual home is in Knutsford, Cheshire. This is the town where Elizabeth spent a happy childhood, where she married and where she is buried, in the graveyard of the three-hundred-year-old Brook Street Chapel.
The Society holds its AGM in Manchester in the spring, and the Autumn Meeting in Knutsford, on the Saturday closest to 29th September, anniversary of Elizabeth Gaskell’s birth. Our international biennial conference takes place in different locations.
Joan Leach passed away in 2010, the day after hearing the bells of St John’s Parish Church ring out for Elizabeth Gaskell’s 200th anniversary: a celebration for which she herself had campaigned. Her memorial stone lies at the foot of Elizabeth Gaskell’s grave at Brook Street Chapel (see picture on Biography page).
The Society’s aims
- The Society’s objects are to promote and encourage the study and appreciation of the work and life of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810-1865).
- To record sources of information about the work of Elizabeth Gaskell and any other material relating to her life, family, work and memory.
- To foster and stimulate an understanding of her work and life by other means.
- To arrange visits to places associated with her or her books.
- To encourage republication of her work.
- To promote and support special projects relating to her life and work at suitable times.
- To co-operate with other societies having an interest in Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell and her times.