84 Plymouth Grove, the former Manchester home of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell and judged second only in regional literary significance to the Bronte Parsonage, is in need of urgent structural repair and the subject of a major £500,000 fund-raising exercise, to augment hoped-for donations from the Heritage Lottery and other sources.
In response to a request from the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust, independent paint manufacturer HMG Paints has donated decorative emulsions for the initial restoration of the ground floor rooms and is preparing a detailed specification for the restoration of its external rendered facade, using the conservation-grade Herbol Herbolflex elastic surface coating system.
Manchester-based HMG is a long standing advocate of the environmental role of paint, in helping to protect and preserve treasured structural and scarce materials, and its high performance products have been used for the restoration of everything from Victorian pillarboxes and vintage cars and buses, to historic warships and museum artefacts. Thus the family-owned company, which has its headquarters in Collyhurst, is delighted to be involved in this venture, particularly as the building has special architectural significance to Manchester, being one of the few surviving examples of its kind, and the family has strong links with Knutsford, the birthplace of Elizabeth Gaskell and inspiration for her book Cranford.
Now owned by the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust, having acquired the freehold from Manchester University in 2004, 84 Plymouth Grove is a Grade II* detached Regency-style villa, built in the 1830's. It still has its original wide entrance hall and staircase, while the spacious reception rooms on the ground floor retain all their period features, other than the fireplaces.
Among the top seven per cent listed buildings in England, it has three floors and over twenty rooms, but is in very poor condition and in need of major renovation. Once the foundations have been underpinned, the roof replaced, dry rot eradicated and the whole house restored and upgraded, it will be opened to the public and used for lectures and exhibitions. The wife of the minister of nearby Cross Street Chapel, the Reverend William Gaskell, Elizabeth lived there from 1850-65, during which time she wrote most of her important works and entertained such literary giants as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, even producing the latter's biography, the first of its kind in modern times.
In addition to the most popular of her novels, Cranford, first published in Dickens' magazine Household Words, she penned Wives and Daughters and North and South, both recently adapted into successful television series. Approached by Janet Allan, Chair of the Historic Buildings Trust, for assistance with the supply of interior paint, HMG Paints responded by donating around 70 litres of silk emulsion in suitably sympathetic shades, for the initial renovation work.
Recognising the need for specialist coatings once the structural works have been completed, HMG is now recommending Herbol Herboflex, a durable elastic reinforcing and finishing system, used for the repair of cracks in rendered facades and with an impressive track record of successful renovation over the last forty years.
The finish coat can be supplied in thousands of shades, from the Nature & Architecture colour collection, allowing 84 Plymouth Grove to be returned to its original condition. For the hardwood doors and window frames, HMG is additionally recommending Glasurit Venti 123 to the project architect. This is a ventilating paint system designed specifically for use on timber frames, which allows the substrate to breath and retain its natural colour, while protecting the wood from weathering and environmental pollution.
Both products are available exclusively through HMG's dedicated Building Paints & Products division.
Further enquiries to:
Telephone 0161 205 7631
The Friends of Plymouth Grove
10 Dale Road
Telephone 01663 744233