To Stop Her Mouth

The mouth of a young girl in a 19th century painting

This autumn, in partnership Creative Industries Trafford and Waterside Arts, theatrical producers Filament present ‘To Stop Her Mouth’. This exciting new sound installation explores the abduction of wealthy heiress Ellen Turner - later the wife of Thomas Legh - by a fortune hunter, a scandal that shocked society in the early 1800s.

To Stop Her Mouth

Sunday 16 September – Sunday 4 November

Abducted from school in Liverpool by a fortune hunter, Ellen Turner, the wealthy heiress to the Shrigley Estate in Cheshire, was convinced that her father was in financial ruin.  Aged only 15 years old, Ellen agreed to marry Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a man twice her age, who she believed had been sent to rescue her father’s fortunes. Her family didn't know she was missing until after the marriage had taken place.

The original transcript of the trial of Edward Gibbon Wakefield in 1827, at which Ellen gave evidence, has been used to create a series of audio recordings sited around the house at Lyme.

The abduction and subsequent trial rocked society and was much talked of; Ellen’s character and behaviour were scrutinised both inside the courtroom by the defence and their witnesses, and outside of it, through the extensive press coverage of the trial. This begs the question - who was really on trial in the public’s mind - Edward or Ellen?

'To Stop Her Mouth'

The validity of Edward and Ellen's marriage was called in to question. Ellen would have been unable to speak against Edward if they were legally married. The defence set out to collect evidence that thy hoped would 'stop her mouth' and prevent her standing as witness at the forthcoming trial.

" It is the custom, the defence is to tell us, to reward the thief with his booty and to consign the wretched party who has been injured to eternal misery! And not only that, but to stop her mouth for ever from making any complaint in a court of justice! "
- Opening statement for the prosecution

What will you experience?

Follow Ellen’s journey from Liverpool to Calais via Manchester, Carlisle and Gretna Green, hearing snippets of conversation and opinion at sound points throughout the house.

Finish the journey in the beautiful Saloon, transformed into a courtroom where visitors can immerse themselves in the 19th century trial of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Become part of the jury and determine Edward’s guilt and Ellen’s complicity in the marriage.

" At an early hour this morning this town was all alive, and on no former occasion was the interest so much excited as by the trial of the Wakefields. From five o’clock till nine, persons of all denominations were seen hurrying from all parts of the town, towards the Castle, all anxious to procure a situation in Court, to hear the interesting proceedings."
- The Manchester Courier, 24 March, 1827


Why are we telling this story?

Ellen was the heiress of nearby Shrigley Hall. After the annulment of her marriage, Ellen went on to marry Thomas Legh, owner of Lyme, when she was 16.

Ellen’s first pregnancy did not reach full term but she and Thomas became parents to their only surviving child, Ellen Jane, on 20th February 1830.  Ellen became pregnant again quite quickly, her third pregnancy in two and half years.  Sadly, the son she was carrying was stillborn and Ellen herself died on 17th January 1831, shortly after the birth.  She was just nineteen years old.

Experience the installation

To Stop Her Mouth will run from Sunday 16 September – Sunday 4 November. The house is open Friday - Tuesday, 11am - 5pm (last entry 4pm).

There is no additional cost. Normal house admission charges apply, NT members free.

About the artists

The National Trust commissioned Creative Industries Trafford (CIT) and Waterside Arts to creatively produce the successful Live at Lyme project in 2017, and this work continues the partnership.

CIT and Waterside Arts have worked with North West based company Filament, audio producer Joel Clements and designer Lis Evans to deliver unique creative content for this immersive audio experience as part of the Trust New Art programme, which seeks to connect people to places through contemporary art across the National Trust properties.


Filament is a collaboration between theatre-maker Sarah Richardson and producer Helen Slevin which was born out of a desire to create artistic adventures that are accessible to all. Based in the North West and working across the North West and West Midlands Sarah and Helen have over 25 years experience of working in theatre through their work with New Vic Theatre, New Vic Education, Restoke and Claybody Theatre. Filament create theatre-based work; Kitchen Goes To War, currently touring to schools and libraries, is an installation and audio play which enables audiences to actively explore the role women and children played in helping Britain to win the First World War. Filament also supports the work of other artists and are currently working with Stute Theatre to produce their upcoming tour of Common Lore, a brand new performance for young people aged 11+.

Production Credits

Creative team

Writer & Director - Sarah Richardson

Sound Design - Joel Clements

Design - Lis Evans

Scenic Design - Melissa McCann

Lighting Design - John Slevin

Graphic Design - Richard Hand

Producer for Filament - Helen Slevin

Creative Producer - Ross Carey

Voice actors

Vicky Brazier

Gareth Cassidy

Deborah McAndrew

Elizabeth Nelson

Andrew Pollard

Artist Serena Korda installs her ceramic mushroom artwork

Art and exhibitions in the North of England  

Discover new art across the North of England this year through Trust New Art, a programme of contemporary arts inspired by our places.