The Gissing Trust

Gissings house Wakefield

Gissing’s House in Thompson’s Yard, Westgate
Watercolour by Joe Clay © The Gissing Trust

Please note that the Gissing Centre will not be open until further notice, due to Coronavirus.

The centre is in Thompson’s Yard, just a few yards from the HSBC’s Westgate branch, and is usually open every Saturday from May until September and on Heritage Open Days.

George Gissing (1857-1903) the renowned Victorian novelist, lived as a boy behind his father’s chemist’s shop in Thompson’s Yard. Although he left Wakefield as a young man, his early experiences in Wakefield are often reflected in his writing. He wrote 23 novels, short stories, and two studies of Charles Dickens.

The Gissing Trust was founded in 1978 by Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield Civic Society and others to acquire and preserve the childhood home of George Gissing in Thompson’s Yard, where family memorabilia, books and an exhibition are housed.

The Centre is in the house where the Victorian novelist George Gissing lived as a boy, behind his father’s chemist’s shop at the top of Westgate. George wrote 23 novels between 1880 and 1903, and is regarded as one of the leading English novelists of his generation, enjoying friendships with fellow writers such as Henry James and H.G. Wells. The Centre houses family memorabilia, exhibition material and a large collection of books by and about Gissing. There is also a video to provide background information about George’s links with Wakefield.

The Gissing Centre
2-4 Thompson’s Yard

contact: Pat Colling

George Gissing and Wakefield

Gissing transformed Wakefield into fiction, particularly in his novel ‘A Life’s Morning’ (1888). The central character in this novel is Emily Hood who grows up in the grimy Yorkshire industrial town of Dunfield where her father works as a clerk in Dagworthy’s textile mill. An intelligent young woman, she is taken under the wing of the wealthy Baxendale family who live in the select district of St Luke’s and with their help she leaves Dunfield to work as a governess. Returning to visit her parents’ home in the suburb of Banbrigg, she walks with her father on the Heath and later she meets her lover at the ruins of Pendal Castle. Unfortunately, Emily also attracts the attention of the recently widowed Dagworthy, the owner of a mansion near the Heath. Dagworthy’s infatuation with Emily eventually leads to a tragedy.

All of the places mentioned by Gissing have their Wakefield equivalents. St Luke’s is St John’s, Banbrigg is Agbrigg, Pendal Castle is Sandal Castle and the Heath is Heath Common. As for the characters, the Dunfield MP, Mr Baxendale, is modelled on the Wakefield MP, Robert Bownas Mackie, who was a friend of Gissing’s father.

Find out more about Gissing’s novels: Books by George Gissing

George Gissing

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