Manchester/Bath UK Journal Day 4
The Victorian Tea Room, Knutsford, UK
I researched at the Rylands this morning, Gentle Reader, and read letters written to Elizabeth Gaskell from several of her more famous contemporaries. Then, I ran to catch a train—and missed said train by mere seconds. I was on the other platform as I saw it pull away. Since the next train wasn’t for another hour, I walked into Altrincham, found a bakery, got a cold sandwich (I know, I know, I said no more cold sandwiches, but at least this one was fresh), and sat at the train station and ate. My sad little lunch, so sad. I caught the next train, and thirteen minutes later, I found myself in Knutsford.
How to explain the joy I felt upon entering this city? Perhaps not joy, not right away, because I had to examine the town map and get my bearings. Luckily, I ran into a woman walking her dog and asked for directions to the Unitarian Church where Elizabeth Gaskell is buried. She happily supplied me with directions, and off I went.
It was quiet, and mossed over, just as a good churchyard should be. There is something about the local churchyard in England we don’t quite get in America. There is a sense of continuance, with the graves on site. So many churches in America, at least in New Orleans, don’t have the graves on property. This church did, and I walked up the hill to find Elizabeth Gaskell’s grave. It was strange, as I had to walk on other graves to get there, and as the graves formed steps (there was a railing!) up the hill.
And there it was: Elizabeth Gaskell’s grave. There were fresh flowers placed there, daffodils, of course (Wordsworth would be proud), and it seemed so quiet and unassuming. None of the pomp and circumstance of Westminster Abbey and Poet’s Corner. No, just a quiet little churchyard and a mysterious person who cared enough to put fresh flowers on a woman’s grave who has been dead for over 150 years.
I felt it, there. The sense of greatness. I was standing next to Elizabeth Gaskell’s grave. Her bones were under my feet. Here lived a woman, and here died a woman, whose work I admire, respect, even love. And I was in a town that made good and sure everyone knew the connections to Gaskell, because there was a sign on the gate, and another one on the wall, declaring the connection to Gaskell.
I then walked up the street on my path to finding more Gaskell places, hopefully Cranford Road, or Gaskell Road. Instead, I found myself on a sort of High Street, with narrow cobblestone walkways and a one-way road. I walked, and walked, and found myself in the shadow of Gaskell Tower.
This Tower was built in memory of Gaskell in the early 1900s, and lists all of her books on the side as well as places a bust of Gaskell on the front. I took several pictures and then walked further up the street, all the way to the Park, before I turned around and headed to a Tea House I saw on my way.
The Tea House is across the street from Gaskell Tower, so I am writing this, literally in the shadow of Elizabeth Gaskell’s memory.
I wrote another entry before this one that I am not sharing, as it will probably go directly into the article. But I did not leave anything out of this one, at any rate. I had my tea (three cups worth), ate my ENTIRE scone (the whole thing, complete with jam and cream! To make up for my sad lunch). Now, I’m not sure what I will do. Perhaps go find Gaskell Road and see what else there is to see. There’s a heritage center here that has Gaskell tour maps, but of course, it’s closed on Mondays (of course).