www.virtual-knutsford.co.uk | October 21, 2017  | knutsford.info advertising rates |   
Virtual-Knutsford Home | Welcome to Virtual Knutsford - the number one site for Knutsford virtual knutsford - Knutsford news, Knutsford events, Knutsford Accommodation, Knutsford Restaurants and Knutsford Features
Virtual-Knutsford Home HOME | Trace Your Past - Family History, School Friends...
 
 SITE SECTIONS 
LOCAL ASSOCIATIONS WITH ELIZABETH GASKELL
BY THOMAS BESWICK
Heathwaite and Heath House

 
Knutsford is the original of Mrs. Gaskell's 'Cranford'. It is described as 'Hollingford' in 'Wives and Daughters', where it is 'the little, straggling town close to the entrance lodge of a great park, where lived my Lord and Lady Cumnor - The Earl and Countess, as they were called by the townspeople.' This reference is to Lord and Lady Egerton, and the entrance lodge and gates of Tatton Park are still at the North end of King Street. The old town of Knutsford is described as 'Dulcombe' in 'Mrs. Harrison's Confessions'; as 'Eltham' in 'Cousin Phillis; as 'Hamley' in 'A Dark Night's Work' and as 'Bamford' in 'The Squire's Tale'.

Top of King St entrance to Tatton Park

Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson was born on 29th September 1810, in Lindsey Row, now numbered 3 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London; and was the daughter of Elizabeth and William Stevenson, her father being keeper of the records to the Treasury. In November, 1811, she was brought, a motherless baby of 12 months old, her mother having died a month before, by stage coach to Knutsford to the house of her aunt, Mrs. Hannah Lumb, by a Mrs. Whittington. This journey is said to have suggested the incident in Mrs. Gaskell's novel 'Mary Barton' where two grandfathers brought their motherless grand- daughter from London by stagecoach and whether this is so or not the parallel is striking.

Heathwaite, 17 Gaskell Avenue
Mrs. Lumb, her mother's sister, lived at the tall brick house known as Heathwaite, Gaskell Avenue (or Heathside). This house overlooks the Knutsford Heath, which is still some thirty acres in extent. The Heath during Mrs. Gaskell's time was open to the road, being railed in 1887 (see Fayne's 'Knutsford' pages 30-31). When Elizabeth Gaskell first came to Knutsford in 1811, the Heath was not divided as it is today into the Gaskell AvenueBig Heath and the Little Heath, but was one large tract of land. In Mrs. Gaskell's time, a successful race course with a fine grandstand was maintained on the Heath. Races were held annually in July from 1729 to 1857, after which the grandstand was pulled down.

Heath House, Gaskell Avenue
On the western boundary of Heathwaite was situated The White House, now known as Heath House, whose secret passages gave rise to many legends. Here lived for several years the notorious Highwayman, Edward Higgins. The highwayman is portrayed in Mrs. Gaskell's novel 'The Squire's Tale'. Heath House was in 1741 and for many years after, known as the Cann Office, where weights and measures of the county were officially tested, and where William Pitt, Prime Minister of England, visited his relative, Charles Cholmondeley, as a youth. Higgins was married at the Parish Church and his wife and two children are buried in
the churchyard. The old Girls School, locally known as Lady Mary's School, is described in 'Wives and Daughters' as being outside the gates of Cumnor Towers, in which Miss Cynthia took so great an interest.