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Elizabeth Gaskell honoured in Westminster Abbey window
Sarah Prince, great-great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Gaskell (c) Dean and Chapter of Westminster
Sarah Prince, 'Lily' Gaskell's great-great-great-granddaughter

Devotees of Elizabeth Gaskell are rejoicing after the Manchester writer was memorialised at Westminster Abbey.

In the week marking the bicentenary of her birth, a unique window panel was unveiled in her honour putting her among the elite of English literature.

Two hundred members of the Gaskell Society were there to commemorate the author of 'Mary Barton' and 'Cranford'.

Ann O'Brien from Stretford, the Society's publicity officer, wrote this account of a proud day for 'Lily'.

"Last Saturday was a memorable day for me and at least another 200 members of the Gaskell Society.

Some had travelled from as far away as Japan and USA for the dedication of a window panel in Poets' Corner, memorialising Elizabeth Gaskell, an honour we felt was long overdue.

At last, she was taking her rightful place among her fellow novelists and poets, from Chaucer to her great friend Charlotte Bronte.

And, best of all, it was taking place just a few days before the 200th anniversary of her birth on 29th September 1810.

What a fitting birthday present it was!


"Seeing the sun stream through the blue and green, glass was just magical - I am sure she would have been thrilled to see it.

Elizabeth Gaskell window
Born in London, 29 September 1810
Spent her childhood in Knutsford, the inspiration for Cranford
Married Unitarian minister William Gaskell in 1832 settling at a house on Plymouth Grove, Manchester
Was a gifted novelist and champion of the working classes
Novels include Mary Barton, Cranford and Wives & Daughters

I must say I was also delighted to see the position of the panel as it is one of the lower panels and therefore easy to read."

The ceremony, short but beautiful in its simplicity, was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall.

The reading chosen from the New Testament, in which Christ tells the people to bring the good news to the poor, I think, truly reflected Elizabeth's great concern for the welfare of the poorest members of society.

After a short address by Jenny Uglow, Gaskell's biographer, the actual dedication took place.

Then, a beautiful wreath of lilies was laid under the window, by Sarah Prince, Elizabeth's great-great-great granddaughter.

Lilies were chosen because Elizabeth was known to her family and friends as "Lily"- a nice touch, I felt, as it reminded us of the humanity of Elizabeth who was a wife and mother, as well as a great writer.

After the prayers and final blessing, we all proceeded over to the historic Westminster School where we enjoyed a celebration drink - I'm sure Elizabeth would have approved!

The afternoon ended with actress Miriam Margolyes, reading excerpts from Gaskell's letters - a reminder of just what an entertaining writer she was."

In pics: celebrating Mrs Gaskell
13 Jul 10 |  History
Grant for Cranford author's home
16 Apr 09 |  Manchester



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