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Centenary celebrations for the the man who transformed town
TODAY marks the 100th anniversary of the death of a man who designed some of Knutsford’s most famous buildings.
Richard Harding-Watt died on March 13, 1913, at the age of 71, after transforming the town’s skyline.
Mr Harding-Watt, who was a glovemaker by trade, designed 13 large properties on Legh Road, the King’s Coffee House (Belle Epoque) and Gaskell Memorial Tower on King Street, Ruskin Chambers on Drury Lane and installed the sundial above the former Post Office building on King Street (Istanbul Grill).
He completed his first house in 1895 – The Croft – and lived in the building until he died as a result of a rather bizarre accident.
But as chronicled in the Knutsford Guardian his death in the spring of 1913 was a huge shock to the town’s residents.
He was riding in his carriage to meet a friend arriving on the London train which was heading into Knutsford station.
According to reports at the time he often stood up in his carriage so he could view his ‘works’ around the town, but as he made his way to the station in his carriage a piece of paper temporarily blinded the horse, causing it to move sharply.
As a result Mr Harding-Watt was thrown out of the carriage and landed on his head. He was taken back to the Croft – the first house he designed in 1895 – but died a few hours later.
An inquest, involving a jury, was held at his home and a verdict of ‘accidental death’ was recorded.
His designs are a key feature of the town, but due to his ‘complex character’ he used a range of architects to create the properties, including William Longworth, Harry Fairhurst, Walter Aston and John Brooke.
Val Bryant, from Knutsford Heritage Centre based on King Street, said Mr Harding-Watt’s designs were unique.
“The Elizabeth Gaskell tower is the most important because everyone can see it over the skyline, and it was built in memory of her,” she said.
“He apparently felt there wasn’t anything in the town for her.
“His creations almost look like they were built in Tuscany in Italy, and he always liked building little bits where the birds could perch, which is unique to his designs.
“He did fall out with one or two architects because he didn’t appreciate what they were doing.”
Current Legh Road resident Mike Roberts is organising a get-together for residents of the road on Sunday to honour the man’s work.