'Cosy and comfortable Knutsford is in Cheshire’s sweet spot south of Manchester — avoiding both inner-city bustle and a long commute.

'Interlinked high streets, a glitzy social scene and interesting architecture make it an irresistible destination for aspirational families and upwardly mobile young professionals.'

That's the way the Sunday Times described Knutsford in its latest Best Places To Live* report.

The town was one of seven locations in the North West visited by the publication's expert judges who visited all the locations and assessed factors from schools to transport, broadband speeds to culture, access to green spaces and the health of the high street

Steeped in history but modern and vibrant, Knutsford is a place with much to offer, whether you are a tourist, a history lover, a literature or architecture buff, a shopper, or simply looking for a beautiful spot to call home.

Knutsford Guardian: The Lord Eldon on King Street, home of the town's first May Queen, Annie Sarah Pollitt crowned in 1864. The Lord Eldon on King Street, home of the town's first May Queen, Annie Sarah Pollitt crowned in 1864. (Image: Nigel Howle)

The picturesque town centre is punctuated by fascinating buildings, from the grand courthouse to the Gaskell Memorial Tower. At its heart are two main streets, King Street and Princess Street, often referred to as top and bottom street by locals.

King Street, bustles with activity throughout the day. Here you’ll find excellent independent shops and a fantastic choice of pubs and restaurants.

It’s a narrow road, with even narrower pavements, deliberately designed to ensure people walk in single file, according to local history.

Knutsford resident Lady Jane Stanley left money in her will to allow pavements to be laid on King Street but didn’t like the idea of women linking with gentlemen as they promenaded along the main street.

Pavements were laid just one stone wide to comply with the wishes of Lady Jane, spinster daughter of the 11th Earl of Derby.

To this day, you’re very likely to see pedestrians stepping into the road as they pass each other, although changes are now being considered, as part of a proposed revamp of Knutsford’s public realm.

Knutsford Town Council is developing a Town Centre Masterplan that will address the long-discussed question of how to improve the pedestrian experience in central Knutsford.

Lady Jane is integral to Knutsford’s rich history and was the inspiration for the Honourable Mrs Jamieson in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, Cranford.

A sedan chair, used to carry Lady Jane around the town is used to this day in the Royal May Day procession.

While Knutsford’s history is a major draw for visitors, that is more than matched by the modern-day pull of its unique shops, restaurants and bars.

Lisa Davy, the owner of Milania Boutique, says: 'Knutsford holds a special allure for many reasons. Firstly, its vibrant business community fosters a unique environment ripe for growth and collaboration.

'Family-run businesses such as Milania Boutique thrive, weaving their values into the fabric of the town. Milania’s commitment to familial principles resonates deeply with locals, forging strong bonds and fostering a loyal customer base.

'By supporting Knutsford, we ensure its rich history and character are preserved for future generations to enjoy, while also stimulating economic growth through tourism and local businesses. Investing in the upkeep of historic landmarks and infrastructure enhances the overall appeal and quality of life in the town, attracting residents and businesses and strengthening its position as a cherished destination, says Lisa.

Milania, on King Street, celebrated its first anniversary in March. Lisa and her team support the town’s annual Flash Fashion Knutsford event which brings together local boutique owners.

Knutsford Guardian: Lisa Davy, the owner of Milania BoutiqueLisa Davy, the owner of Milania Boutique (Image: Dale Alexander Events)

Lisa is also keen to support the local food and drink offer, adding: 'Knutsford’s culinary scene adds another layer of charm to the town. There’s a fabulous range of eateries, it’s not just a place to shop, but also to savour the diverse flavours that enrich its streets. These elements help to make Knutsford a truly special destination.'

The word vibrant is also used to describe Knutsford by Laura Anderson, communications officer for the town council.

'We have a high proportion of independent shops, and they help to make Knutsford a unique, positive place,' she says. That independent spirit means events, whether organised by the council, or other civic groups, are well supported.

'There are always events being organised here and people in Knutsford and the independent traders love to help. Knutsford has a big heart and people want to help, whether it be the good neighbours’ group, helping to get local people to health appointments, the friends of the moor, or the annual coat collection,' says Laura.

Another addition to the Knutsford street scene is Linden Stores on Minshull Street.

Partners Laura Christie and Chris Boustead relocated to Knutsford from central London where they had led successful restaurants.

'We wanted a place with a busy culinary scene offering a place to live work and easy access to a city centre,' says Laura.

Knutsford ticked all those boxes for Laura and Chris. Linden Stores adds to the busy culinary scene in the town and Knutsford has a direct rail link to Manchester.

Knutsford Guardian: Chris Boustead and Laura Christie of Linden StoresChris Boustead and Laura Christie of Linden Stores (Image: Linden Stores)

'We are known for using seasonal British produce in the restaurant, everything is locally produced where possible, and for our wine, we always try to choose lesser-known bottles,' adds Laura. “It’s a busy town for both hospitality and cuisine, and we see ourselves as complementing other food offerings in Knutsford.

'We’ve found Knutsford to have a strong business community supported by a supportive town council. There’s a fantastic programme of free events and the local businesses act as a community. Owners are supportive and want to help each other.

'It’s a town where people do come out to eat and is also a destination town, as customers travel in from quite a distance away.'

Laura was happy to recommend a host of businesses in the town, including Detaljer on Princess Street, for coffee, and Morgan and Edwards of King Street, a wine shop with a first-floor tasting room.

Many Knutsford shops have a rich heritage, including Arthur Lee Interiors, which has traded in the town since 1919 and occupies a three-storey Georgian townhouse on Toft Road.

Close by, you will find The Lost and Found, a popular restaurant set inside Knutsford’s grand Old Town Hall.

When it comes to bar owners, there’s even a little showbiz stardust, with former Boyzone star Shane Lynch at the helm of the D13 Irish Bar in King Street, and Coronation Street veteran Adam Rickitt, running bottle shop and bar Dexter and Jones, on Princess Street, with his wife Katy, a Good Morning Britain presenter.

Knutsford Guardian: Adam and Katy Rickitt who own Dexter & Jones, a caft beer, artisan gin and fine wine shop/bar set in Princess Street. Adam is also an actor of stage and screen and, Katy a journalist and TV news reporter. Adam and Katy Rickitt who own Dexter & Jones, a caft beer, artisan gin and fine wine shop/bar set in Princess Street. Adam is also an actor of stage and screen and, Katy a journalist and TV news reporter. (Image: Newsquest)

Knutsford has always held a status as one of the region’s most important towns and the Old Town Hall is one of numerous interesting buildings across the town centre.

Parts of the imposing former crown and magistrates court building date back to the 16th century, with the Grade II Listed building being completed in 1818 by architect George Moneypenny.

Among the defendants to appear in the dock at Knutsford was World War II code breaker, Alan Turing. The brilliant mathematician, who lived in nearby Wilmslow, admitted 'acts of gross indecency' at a trial in 1952.

Designer Richard Harding Watt, who has been described as Knutsford’s Gaudi, made an indelible mark on the town with buildings including the Gaskell Memorial Tower, the Ruskin Rooms, and the Italianate villas on Leigh Road.

Watt made his fortune in glove making and used it to indulge his passion for architecture and building. He completed his first house in 1895 – The Croft, Legh Road – and lived there until he died.

It’s said that Watt didn’t think enough had been done to honour Elizabeth Gaskell who used Knutsford as a template for Cranford, so commissioned the building of the tower on King Street.

The Ruskin Rooms also have a fascinating history. Built as a reading room for the people of Knutsford, they later became a Welcome Club for officers of the American Third Army and an opening ceremony held in 1944 featured General George S Patton, regarded one of the greatest battlefield commanders.

Wandering around Knutsford, you will also see references to King Canute. The name translates to ‘Knutr’ in old Norse, and Canute, King of England from 1016 to 1035, is said to have forded the River Lily, the small brook that runs below the Moorside car park and flows in to Tatton Meir.

The entrance to historic Tatton Park is just off the town centre, close to the junction of Garden Street and Mereheath Lane.

Knutsford Guardian: The Japanese Garden at Tatton Park, Knutsford. The 1,000 acres of parkland, mansion, gardens and farm are the site for more than 100 events and activities throughout the year. The Japanese Garden at Tatton Park, Knutsford. The 1,000 acres of parkland, mansion, gardens and farm are the site for more than 100 events and activities throughout the year. (Image: Tony Crawford)

Tatton, the historic home of the Egerton family, has around 100 acres of parkland, an elegant mansion, and a working farm. Events this spring include the Shaun the Sheep Find the Flock arts trail, Segway tour days, and the Tatton 5k and 10k run on Saturday, May 11.

Knutsford is known for its monthly Makers Market. Stalls selling artisan goods stretch between Princess Street, Regent Street, and Silk Mill Street, on the first Sunday of every month.

The town also has an indoor market and major plans have been unveiled to revamp and revitalise the venue.

The market is currently trading but Knutsford-based Hive Architects, working on behalf of Knutsford Town Council, has set out proposals to remodel the building to create a modern and flexible trading space with a central section of demountable seating and stalls to allow the building to be used for events and by the community outside trading hours.

The refurbished market hall will benefit from a large, glazed front and roof lights to flood the building with natural light; bifold and automatic doors enabling the frontage to be open during the summer but retain heat during the winter. The project has received £720,000 from the Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Community Ownership Fund.

*The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2024 sponsored by Halifax - thetimes.co.uk/best-places-to-live

The other places are Stockport and Prestwich in Greater Manchester; Christleton, Cheshire; Sefton Park, Liverpool; Kendal, Cumbria and Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

Knutsford Guardian: The early coaching inn, formerly the George and Dragon, became 'Royal' following a visit by Princess Victoria in 1832. The early coaching inn, formerly the George and Dragon, became 'Royal' following a visit by Princess Victoria in 1832. (Image: Nick Harrison/Flickr)

Discovering historic Knutsford’s blue plaques

London’s blue plaques are renowned by history lovers, but did you know that Knutsford has its own scheme?

There are 14 blue plaques in the town centre, two on nearby Legh Road, and one at Heathfield Square, in a scheme run by Knutsford Town Council.

The town centre plaques introduce visitors to buildings with associations to Elizabeth Gaskell, General Patton, artist, and founder of the Royal Academy Edward Penny and even Queen Victoria who stayed at the George and Dragon in 1832, when she was a princess. The hotel was then renamed as the Royal George.

The Legh Road plaques commemorate Sir Henry Royce, founder of Rolls-Royce, and Richard Harding Watt, the designer of many well-known Knutsford buildings,.

The latest Blue Plaque is located at Heathfield Square. The square was built by Knutsford Urban District Council in 1922 in response to the national Homes Fit for Heroes building programme following the First World War.

Festival of Britain plaques also mark the homes of Elizabeth Gaskell, Trumpet Major Smith, Knutsford’s first Knutsford Royal May Queen, the infamous Highwayman Higgins and the steps from which John Wesley preached in Knutsford.

Spotting each plaque is a great way to discover Knutsford.

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