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


The Royal George

Joan Leach

In 1790 diarist John Byng stayed at the inn which , at that time, was known as The George and Dragon (look at the corners of the archway) He noted in his diary:

"In this inn are built assembly and tea rooms of spacious grandeur, where are held monthly assemblies; at which the maid bragged that none but gentility were admitted; but on no account, any tradesman. . . . This is an excellent inn with nothing amiss, but what seems common in Cheshire, viz the badness of the cheese; as if all the good cheese were sent to London." (A Tour in the Midlands: 1790)

John Byng's inn bill shows an emblem of George and the Dragon, the inn keeper's name is at the top left (Rich(ar)d Hancock and The G(eor)ge, Knotsford on the right.(see right)

The Assembly Rooms had been built by the subscriptions of the gentry for their exclusive use probably about 1760.

Mail coaches to London, Liverpool and Birmingham kept the inn busy at all hours of the day and night.







Gaskell Memorial Tower
by Joan Leach

Situated at the Kings Coffee House, King Street, now Belle Epoque Restaurant which has a courtyard with two pillars, both taken from St. Peter's Church in Manchester.  An example of the unique style of architecture of Richard Harding Watt.

There is a bust of Mrs Gaskell on the tower and a bas relief on the side which is said to have been taken from a death mask. There is also a list of her works which, strangely, does not include Wives and Daughters , presumably because it was an unfinished novel.

The Belle Epoque was originally known as The Kings' Coffee House because it has the dates of all the English kings inscribed on the column near the entrance. Watt had a theory that architecture should instruct and uplift: for uplift read the inscriptions around the small courtyard at the front of the building.



Knutsford's Coat of Arms

Although this was granted as recently as 1955, it is a summary of the town's history.

The Shield is in blue and gold, the livery of the earldom and County of Chester. The cross in gold represents Cross Town and the sheaves above and below it are for Over and Nether Knutsford. The fleur-de-lis at each side are for Toft and Tabley and the ancient Leycester families. Above the shield the blue and white waves with a crown are for Canute's Ford.

The crest has a red walled crown for Halton Castle with the diamonds from the arms of William Fitz Nigel, the Norman baron of Halton who held the manors of Knutsford, Over Tabley and half of Tatton and Peover (together with many other lands in Cheshire).

The Red Lion is from the arms of Egertons and Leighs and the necklace of flowers around his neck represents May Day. The Book in his hand is for Elizabeth Gaskell and for the ancient Grammar School.

The motto Respice, Aspice, Prospice is that of the Holland family meaning 'Look to the Past, Present, and the Future'.

Elizabeth Gaskell's mother was born Elizabeth Holland and her her uncle, Peter Holland lived at Church House, Toft Rd (the present Hollingford House), with his daughters Mary and Lucy. His son, Sir Henry Holland (born 1788), became friend and doctor to six prime ministers and was present at the death bed of Queen Caroline and Prince Albert; his son, also Henry, became Lord Knutsford and said he first considered Lord Cranford for his title! There is still a Lord Knutsford.