Knutsford is an ancient town with a fascinating history and some quite extraordinary buildings.

In common with other nearby North Cheshire towns, Knutsford has its quota of wealthy inhabitants.

Accordingly, there are many high-class shops and restaurants. If ever there was a need for pedestrianisation, it is King Street, better known locally as Bottom Street, Princess Street running parallel and being Top Street.

The street is one way, with Princess Street in the opposite direction.

There are many interesting buildings in the town centre, but two are worthy of mention.

The Gaskell Memorial Tower is in honour of famous Knutsford author Elizabeth Gaskell who used the town and its characters in her novels, including Cranford, which became a successful TV series.

Northwich Guardian: Knutsford old town hallKnutsford old town hall (Image: Paul Hurley)

Next door, the Kings Coffee House was built, both by the somewhat eccentric Richard Harding Watt in 1907/08.

The many buildings of Watt, a Manchester glove maker, are a strange addition to this pretty Cheshire market town. He was well-travelled and decided to bring some ideas from the countries he visited and replicate them in Knutsford.

Legh Road has many of his creations in the form of Italianate dwelling houses.

Northwich Guardian: The White Bear in KnutsfordThe White Bear in Knutsford (Image: Paul Hurley)

He also built the large laundry and Ruskin rooms in Drury Lane; this time, he included some Moorish influences with minarets, domes and towers.

Not everyone in Knutsford was enamoured with these fantastic buildings; Nicholas Pevsner described the creations as the maddest sequence of villas in England!

The home of Elizabeth Gaskell can be found in the street named after her, Gaskell Avenue and further down this short road is Heath House, where Highwayman Edward Higgins or ‘Squire’ Higgins once lived as he was known.

Northwich Guardian: Knutsford court and prisonKnutsford court and prison (Image: Paul Hurley)

The same house in 1741 was occupied by Mr Charles Cholmondeley, a well-known Cheshire personage, and it was also known at one time as The ‘Cann Office’ as it was where scales and weights were tested.

But going back a little further, the town is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and although there are many different suggestions as to the name Knutsford, it would appear that King Canute features quite strongly.

One unusual tradition is to ‘sand’ the streets for weddings and other functions.

Northwich Guardian: The Queen's Carriage at the Knutsford May Festival in 1908The Queen's Carriage at the Knutsford May Festival in 1908 (Image: Paul Hurley)

Tradition has it that this originated when Canute, after fording the river, shook the sand from his shoes in the path of a wedding party; now, it is carried out during the Knutsford May Day.

Or should I say, the Royal Knutsford May Day as it is allowed to use the name Royal in its title.

This honour was bestowed on the event by Victoria, Princess of Wales, in 1887, twenty-three years after the introduction of the May Day festivities.