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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.



Knutsford's very own resident historian answers your questions on Knutsford's history.

What is General George Smith Patton's connection with Knutsford?

read general pattons speechJoan Says: During the first half of 1944 the US Third Army, under General 'blood & guts' Patton, set up HQ at Peover Hall in Cheshire. Many of Patton's troops were based at Toft camp nearby.

During his time in Cheshire, Patton is known to have visited many of the hostelries in Peover, Knutsford, and Mobberley including Knutsford's Royal George Hotel seeon King St and Lower Peover's 13th century inn called 'Bells of Peover', even lunching there with Eisenhower. At Peover Hall Patton's bedroom overlooked St Lawrence's church, and on 27 May 1945 Patton kept a promise to return to St. Lawrence's church for a Service of Thanksgiving where his Standard was presented and is still displayed to this day. A plaque there reads, 'This flag commemorates the fact that the commanding General and his Staff and members of the American Third Army worshipped here during the second World War, 1944'. Knutsford's Ruskin Rooms also bears a plaque commemorating his use of the building during his stay in Cheshire.

Ruskin Rooms

On 25 April 1944, at the old Town Hall in Knutsford, which is now a furniture shop and post office, Patton made the speech which caused his downfall and became known as the 'Knutsford Incident'. Speaking to the soldiers attending the opening of the Knutsford Welcome Club Patton made a few brief remarks and happened to say, ". . . it is the evident destiny of the British and Americans, and, of course, the Russians, to rule the world . . . "

The remarks hit the newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic omitting the Russians thereby slighting one of our allies. All witnesses to the event said he included the Russians. Anthony Cave Brown, in Bodyguard of Lies, states that a British Government representative named Mould "almost certainly" released Patton's remarks to the media as part of the FUSAG deception.     read the whole speech


For detailed information on General Patton visit The Patton Society website

Who was William Tong & what part did he play in founding the Unitarian Church?
Joan answers: I am asked whether William Tong was the first minister of Brook Street Chapel. Well, probably!! It all depends on the date one accepts for the building of the chapel.

The first licence is dated January 1694 though it may be that it was in use before that but there was some reluctance to register it officially.

Certainly the chapel celebrated its 250th anniversary in May 1939 (the Chapel was not large enough for the event so the Town Hall was used) click to view fullsize leaflet.

Henry Green in 'Knutsford: Its History and Traditions', himself a minister of the Chapel, (1827 - 1873) wrote that it was completed in 1688. Acts of Toleration were passed in 1687 and 1689.

Now, William Tong certainly ministered to the Knutsford congregation from 1687-9 when he was called to the Great Meeting House in Coventry. He was followed by Thomas Kynaston, named by Green as the first minister.

So you see it is not easy to say who was the first minister. Tong was remembered for his 'Life of Matthew Henry', and noted for his bible commentary. Both men preached at Knutsford, Tong returned several times.