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the gissing trust

Gissing House

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

The Gissing Centre is in Thompson’s Yard, just a few yards from the HSBC’s Westgate branch, and is open every Saturday from 2.00 pm until 4.00 pm from 4 May until 28 September and from 10 am until 4.00 pm on the Heritage Open Days on 14, 15, 21 and 22 September.  It is open to the public without charge.

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
mobile: 07792 483645





Exhibition at the Gissing Centre 2019

George Gissing – Fact into Fiction’ is the title of a new exhibition at the Gissing Centre from 4 May until 28 September 2019. The novelist George Gissing spent most of his brief life away from his home town, but he returned from time to time to visit his family. Much of his fiction is strongly autobiographical and it is therefore not surprising he used Wakefield in his work.

Using a selection of pictures, maps and texts, the exhibition examines how 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.

As the exhibition shows, 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.

Gissing’s Dunfield is not an attractive town, but this did not deter the ‘Wakefield Free Press’ from giving ‘A Life’s Morning’ a favourable review. The paper noted that the serialisation of the novel had attracted considerable attention in London and praised Gissing’s style and characterisation, but it also commented on Gissing’s pessimistic outlook, a feature of much of his work. 

More information about: George Gissing's Books and Novellas           


George Gissing

George Gissing