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KNUTSFORD, a market town in the Knutsford parliamentary division of Cheshire, England; on the London & North Western and Great Central railways, 24 m. E.N.E. of Chester, on the Chesire Lines and London & North -Western railway. Pop. of urban district (1901), 5172. It is pleasantly situated on an elevated ridge, with the fine domains of Tatton Park and Tabley respectively north and west of it. The meres in these domains are especially picturesque. Knutsford is noted in modern times as the scene of Mrs Gaskell's novel Cranford. Among several ancient houses the most interesting are a cottage with the date 1411 carved on its woodwork, and the Rose and Crown tavern, dated 1641. A number of curious old customs linger in the town, such as the practice of working designs in coloured sand, when a wedding takes place, before the bride's house. In what is probably the oldest Unitarian graveyard in the kingdom Mrs Gaskell lies buried; and in a churchyard a mile from the town stood the ancient church, which, though partially rebuilt in the time of Henry VIII., fell into ruin in 1741. The church of St John, built in 1744, and enlarged in 1879, was supplemented, in 1880, by St Cross Church, in Perpendicular style. The town has a grammar school, founded before the reign of Henry VIII., but reorganized in 1885. Lord Egerton built the Egerton schools in 1893. The industries comprise cotton, worsted and leather manufactures; but Knutsford is mainly a residential town, as many Manchester merchants have settled here, attracted by the fine climate and surroundings. Knutsford was the birthplace of Sir Henry Holland, Physician Extraordinary to Queen Victoria (1788-1873); and his son, the second Sir Henry, who was secretary of state for the colonies (1887-1892), was raised to the peerage in 1888 with the title of Baron Knutsford.

The name Knutsford (Cunetesford, Knotesford) is said to signify Cnut's ford, but there is no evidence of a settlement here previous to Domesday. In 1086 Erthebrand held Knutsford immediately of William FitzNigel, baron of Halton, who was himself a mesne lord of Hugh Lupus earl of Chester. In 1292 William de Tabley, lord of both Over and Nether Knutsford, granted free burgage to his burgesses in both Knutsfords. This charter is the only one which gives Knutsford a claim to the title of borough. It provided that the burgesses might elect a bailiff from amongst themselves every year. The office however carried little real power with it, and soon lapsed. In the same year as the charter to Knutsford the king granted to William de Tabley a market ev.ery Saturday at Nether Knutsford, and a three days' fair at the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. When this charter was confirmed by Edward III. another market (Friday) and another three days' fair (Feast of St Simon and St Jude) were added. The Friday market was certainly dropped by 1592, if it was ever held. May-day revels are still kept up here and attract large crowds from the neighbourhood. A silk mill was erected here in 1770, and there was also an attempt to foster the cotton trade, but the lack of means of communication made the undertaking impossible.

See Henry Green, History of Knutsford (1859).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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