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

Dear Joan, Could you please tell me the origin/history of the obelisk outside our home on Chelford Road opposite the Toft Cricket Club. Thank you

Joan answers:

Knutsford ObeliskDid you know that Cleopatra's needle was towed from Egypt to its position on the Thames Embankment? It came adrift in a storm with its crew of five sailors who were rescued by the towing ship, leaving the Needle to its fate. It was rescued by a Spanish ship and later resumed its journey to London.

Knutsford's obelisk may not be quite as romantic but, stilll, it has its own mysteries. No-one knows for sure when or why it was erected.

As it is opposite Booth Hall it is thought to be connected with the Legh family. One theory is that it was built with stones from the old church, to commemorate the building of Booth Hall in 1745. The new parish church was built in 1744.

About a third of the way up the column there is a small peep hole through which Booth Hall and Toft Hall could be seen (it is blocked up at present) so perhaps it marked an agreement, or boundary, between the families.

It could even have been the grave of a racehorse.

I was intrigued to find it marked on the 1880 ordnance survey map as "Obelisk to Ralph Leycester and his wife" but why is it not nearer to Toft Hall?

The stone urn on the top is older than the column, so perhaps the urn was brought from the old church. I was disappointed to find that a document in John Rylands library listed as "Monument to Ralph Leycester 1788" turned out to be for St Johns Church - you can see an urn on the outside wall facing King Street, though the plaque has disappeared.

Peter Legh, of Booth, who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century, was interested in architecture and astronomy. He had a seat put on the roadside for weary travellers who had climbed the hill from Knutsford - perhaps it was by the obelisk?- inscribed with the words:

"For public use at my expense
Honi soit qui mal y pense"

Any more theories about the Obelisk?

Joan Leach
20.8.02