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The Town


In 1832, William Gaskell married the renowned authoress Elizabeth Gaskell at St. Johns Church.

Knutsford has been home to many famous people including the author Elizabeth Gaskell who wrote Cranford and many other novels, Henry Royce the engineer who in partnership with Charles Rolls created Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Richard Harding Watt responsible for the town’s Italianate buildings, Trumpet Major Smith of Charge of the Light Brigade fame, and quite a few others. The notorious Highwayman Higgins also lived in Knutsford.

The town’s Italianate buildings include the Gaskell Tower and adjoining early Council Offices now The Belle Epoque restaurant, the Ruskin Rooms and many others especially in Legh Road where Richard Harding Watt and Henry Royce lived. The town has over 100 listed buildings including the Unitarian Church (Grade I listed) where Elizabeth Gaskell is buried. Also of special note is the Old Town Hall (Grade II),the Sessions Court House (Grade II*) and St Johns Parish Church (Grade II*).

The highlight of the year is Knutsford Royal May Day which began in 1864. The procession winds its way through the town’s narrow streets finishing on the Heath where the crowning takes place. It takes place on the first Saturday in May each year when thousands of visitors descend on the town.

Knutsford Heritage Centre has an extensive archive of life in early Knutsford and a comprehensive record of Knutsford Royal May Day and its May Queens dating from 1864.

More Information

For more information about Knutsford visit one of the following websites:
Knutsford Guardian
Knutsford Times
The Gaskell Society
Official website for Gaskell Society news.


To view a location map of parking in Knutsford, please click here.

Did You Know?

  • Knutsford’s Origins were recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.
  • It is the childhood home of Elizabeth Gaskell who immortalised Knutsford in many of her works, particularly Cranford.
  • Knutsford Royal May Day Parade has taken place every year since 1887 (with a small break during WW1 and WW2).
  • Home to the Millennium Tapestry created by 3,000 members of the local community, each road, street and lane can be seen on the tapestry along with over 500 everyday scenes. The three panels measure 12 metres in total, using 53 metres of canvas, 52 miles of wool and 150 needles were used in its creation.
  • Famous residents have included Henry Royce, co-founder of the Rolls Royce Motor Company.
  • Knutsford’s Great Penny Farthing Race takes place every ten years. A 3 hour endurance race on all shapes and sizes of penny farthing, featuring teams and individuals from all over the world.
  • Richard Harding Watt was a wealthy glove manufacturer with a great love of the northern Italian lakes. The legacy of his many buildings around the town, although slightly eccentric helps to make Knutsford the attractive market town it is today.
  • America General George Patton was associated with Knutsford in 1944 when he set up HQ at nearby Peover with his troops based at Toft. He lunched with General Eisenhower at the Bells of Peover, where the table they dined at is still laid with fresh flowers today.
  • “Squire” Higgins, as he was known to his friends of the local gentry, appears to have been of good birth, although much of his origin is obscure. Taking residence in Knutsford about 1756 and accepted by the community as a gentleman. Such a life enabled him to become familiar with the layout of the houses of his hosts so that at a later date he was able to sneak back for a spot of burglary. Local folklore claims ‘Highwayman’ Higgins had a tunnel running under ‘The Heath’ to hide his booty. Higgins and his wife dined with their neighbours and he hunted, fished and shot with them.
  • Near the end of the 18th century Lady Jane Stanley, daughter of the 11th Earl of Derby, paid for pavements to be installed in Knutsford. She was a spinster who disapproved of any contact between men and women, even walking side-by-side. She therefore stipulated that the pavement must be so narrow that people could walk only in single file.

Great Rail Journeys


Knutsford was featured on a recent BBC2 Great Rail Journey programme featuring Michael Portillo in January 2016.Knutsford Heritage Centre worked with Boundless TV on the research for this programme during 2015. For the programme Michael Portillo visited Heathwaite House where Elizabeth Gaskell the town’s famous authoresslived as a child, the Unitarian Chapel where she is buried, and the Gaskell Tower built in 1907 by Richard Harding Watt in her memory. Diane Stenson accompanied Michael Portillo who chatted with him about Elizabeth Gaskell’s mostfamous novel ‘Cranford’, the inspiration which she drew from the many buildings and features of the town.

The picture here shows Diane Stenson, Michael Portillo and Val Bryant (Trustee) in front of the Gaskell Tower.


Memoir Writing

Memoir Writing

This 7-week course will guide you through the process of writing stories from your life for your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Suitable for inexperienced and experienced writers, there will be lots of tips on how to make your memories vivid and engaging.  Just bring yourself, a pen and paper. Sessions last for 2 hours and will include stimulating, hands-on writing exercises and the opportunity to read out work in a friendly, supportive and constructively critical environment, guided by a former literary agent, Sarah Ganczarski M.A. in Creative Writing and teaching creative writing qualifications from MMU.

Start Date:     Monday 4th April 2016 (7 weeks)

Finish Date:  Monday 23rd May (1 week off 2nd May)

Venue:            Knutsford Heritage Centre

Time:              10am – 12pm

 Price:             £50 (inc refreshments)

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Review Knutsford Heritage Centre

90A King Street, Knutsford,
Cheshire, WA16 6ED

Tel: 01565 650506

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