Elizabeth Gaskell and Tatton Park
The major 19th century novelist on
Tatton’s doorstep: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell 1810-1865
Orphaned as a very
young child, Elizabeth Stevenson, later Gaskell, grew up with her
aunt Hannah Lumb in Knutsford, the market town next to Tatton Park.
She was later to marry the local Unitarian minister, William
The social details and atmosphere of Knutsford were to find
expression in her novels, particularly Cranford (1853) and
her late masterpiece, Wives and Daughters (1866) where it
is the model for Hollingford.
It is in the latter novel that Tatton Park appears as Cumnor
Towers, the home of the Cumnor family, where its function as the
centre of aristocratic privilege and influence exactly mirrors the
relationship between Tatton and Knutsford that Mrs Gaskell had
grown up with and observed first – hand.
The first chapters of the novel describe the annual garden party
for the local people at the great house as seen through the eyes of
a young girl, Molly Gibson, and very much suggest the Tatton that
can still be experienced today:
"But she lost all consciousness of herself by-and-by when the
party strolled out into the beautiful grounds, the like of which
she had never even imagined. Green velvet lawns, bathed in
sunshine, stretched away on every side into the finely wooded park;
if there were divisions and ha-has between the soft sunny sweeps of
grass, and the dark gloom of the forest-trees beyond, Molly did not
see them; and the melting away of exquisite cultivation into the
wilderness had an inexplicable charm to her."
(Wives and Daughters, Chapter II)
For any lover or student of English Literature, a visit to
Tatton can be an invaluable enhancement to their understanding of
the context in which a major writer worked. For further
information, visit the Elizabeth Gaskell