2nd March 2021, 3:00pm


William Gaskell - Unitarian Minister and pioneer in the education of the working class

If you want to escape the hubbub of Oxford Road, you might want to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, located a stone’s throw from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Elizabeth lived here with her husband, William, between 1850-1865. William Gaskell, born in 1905, was a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil, as well as being an ardent pioneer for the education of the working classes.

Gaskell was the minister of the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester for over fifty years. During his half-century in the role, he trained men without previous academic background for the Unitarian ministry. Alongside his wife, he also worked with poverty relief societies and the sanitation commission.

To this day, the Cross Street Chapel continues the legacy of William Gaskell. The chapel works with Shelter to campaign and promote safe housing for the homeless. The chapel is also a member of the Challenging Hate Forum, a group of religious bodies that gather monthly to combat hate crime. They also offer support for refugees, too, and host City of Sanctuary every other month, a safe environment for people fleeing persecution.


“William Gaskell was such an influential Mancunian during his lifetime, influencing social and cultural developments, giving working people the chance to learn and gain access to the world of literature, philosophy and science. We are thrilled that he’s being celebrated as part of the Manchester Lit and Phi’s 240th anniversary. I’m not sure if he would have enjoyed the attention but the team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House are delighted to see his achievements acknowledged.”

Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd, House Manager, Elizabeth Gaskell's House


Discover more

  • The John Rylands Library holds some papers relating to the Gaskell Family