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Ask Joan
Joan Leach is a local historian, a volunteer at the Heritage Centre, a founder of The Gaskell Society, and much more besides.


Who was Highwayman Higgins?
Joan answers: Highwayman Higgins, Knutsford folk hero, was Edward Higgins, gentleman by day, thief by night, and one time Knutsford resident. He married Katherine Bertles in Knutsford Parish Church and the graves of two of his children can be found near the Church on the Toft Road side. He counted among his friends Samuel Egerton of Tatton but had to make a quick exit from Knutsford before eventually being caught and sentenced to death for his crimes. He was hanged at Carmarthen in November 1767. For more information see Reverend Henry Greens 'Knutsford: 'Its History and Traditions', 1856.

How long has Tatton Park existed & what is the Egerton Connection?
Joan replies: Tatton is probably named after a Saxon chiefton Tata, ton means place or town, thus Tata's town = Tatton. This was a village in medieval days around the old hall and the mill.

Although the Egertons first owned Tatton about 1600 they made little impact on it or the neighbourhood until the mid eighteenth century when family money enabled them to build a new house where the present one stands now.

A map of Tatton dated 1733 shows the whole park area divided up into small fields, many with evocative names such as 'rushy field', 'further gorsty field', 'sheep field' and 'barrne coney (rabbit) greave', though 'the oller shrogs' is a mystery! A number of the fields have owner's names so it is clear that the Egertons did not then own the whole area of the park. Nor does the park stretch to the outskirts of Knutsford and part of the mere lies outside the park area.

Parkland became a new fashion at the end of the 18th Century and the Egertons engaged Humphrey Repton to design woodland plantings and gardens. His 'red book', master plan still exists. Turnmere was water drained at his suggestion, to extend the gardens but nature reasserted herself and a new lake - Melchett Mere gradually appeared.