the last year or more the former Royal George Hotel has stood forlorn
and dingy, neglected and deteriorating as if to reconcile us that
the inevitable changes will be for the better: time will tell.
Did Knutsfordians feel something like that when Richard Harding
Watt was building in King Street in the early 1900's?
He demolished derelict lodging houses and a rundown pub called
the Hat and Feather to build The King's Coffee House and Gaskell
Memorial Tower, perhaps against the townsfolk's will for at its
dedication n March 1907 he said:
"I feel somewhat on my defence today and I hope you will forget
He then made it clear that any guilt felt on his part was for having
done it alone because he found the best and most unanimous committee
was of one person but hoped the town would accept it as a mutual
token of their regard for their famous townswoman.
his death in 1913 his wife donated it to the town council who still
Watt is sometimes described as an eccentric architect but, though
he had indulged in odd ideas about architecture, he was not and
architect and had to employ one to work with him.
Such a partnership was fraught with problems so at different times
three architects took on the task: the first resigned in a row over
the design of Watt's chimneys, the second died and the third signed
an agreement to accept the job as Watt's draughtsman.
Any money Watt had to spend creating his buildings came from his
business as a glove merchant, importing mainly from France and Italy
and trading from Manchester and Glasgow. The facts of his life are
obscure but he was born in Manchester about 1842 and later lived
in Bowdon where he met his wife, Ethel Armitage, who was 18 years
younger than him.
Her family were builders and artists who did not encourage Watt's
suit so the marriage took place 20 years after he first proposed.
Perhaps Watt hoped to impress Ethel and her family with is Knutsford
buildings but she put and end to them as a waste of money, though
in after years she was content to collect the rents.
The buildings of Richard Harding Watt have lent an exotic air to
Knutsford and from certain aspects have created something like and
Italian hillside town landscape, which he admired.
As a young man he travelled around the Mediterranean to Italy,
Greece, Turkey, Scandinavia and later the Holy Land, twice to the
USA and to India but his furthest travels took him to Australia
where he perhaps intended to settle but two years later he returned
The voyage to Australia in 1864, by wooden sailing ship, round
Cape Horn was tedious, uncomfortable and, at times dangerous.
To while away the time he kept a diary.
Joan Leach 13/02/03