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Manchester Meeting – Elizabeth Gaskell’s Visits to Capesthorne Hall
Tuesday 7 December, 2021, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm£5 – £6
In the late 1840s and early 1850s Elizabeth Gaskell paid a number of visits to her friend Caroline Davenport at Capesthorne Hall, near Congleton, Cheshire. Capesthorne is a red-brick Georgian mansion, remodelled in the 1830s by the architect Edward Blore. Gaskell’s letters dwell on the architectural features of the building, particularly its ‘old’ hall and galleries. In this talk, Dr Emma Liggins considers reverence for the old in women writing about the architecture of the British country house. Gaskell’s reading of Capesthorne can also be linked to her uses of the architectural uncanny in her ghost stories ‘The Old Nurse’s Tale’ (1852) and ‘The Grey Woman’ (1860). Capesthorne, with its expanded wings and grand entrance hall, may have influenced her representation of Furnivall Manor and les Rochers as uncanny places to get lost in. Gaskell’s ghost stories show a fascination with what Henri LeFebvre calls ‘the laws of space’, locating moments of haunting in forgotten, forbidden or locked-up zones of the country house.
Dr Emma Liggins is a Reader in Nineteenth-Century Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has published articles and book chapters on the Victorian supernatural, the modernist ghost story and the New Woman. Her recent books include Odd Women? Spinsters, Lesbians and Widows in British Women’s Fiction, 1850s – 1930s (Manchester University Press, 2014) and The Haunted House in Women’s Ghost Stories, 1850-1940: Gender, Space and Modernity (Palgrave, 2020). She is currently writing about Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black for a collection on Graveyard Gothic.
Doors open at 1pm – tea/coffee available to purchase, and you are most welcome to bring a packed lunch! The talk begins at 1.30pm.