Knutsford is situated on the Cheshire Plain, and the area is famous for its beautiful countryside and pretty towns and villages. Knutsford is a popular destination for eating out, with plenty of restaurants and bars.
The origins of the name are unclear: many believe it means 'Canute’s ford' (where King Canute forded the River Lily), others think it means 'neat's ford', a crossing place for cattle.
At one end of the narrow King Street (also known as Bottom Street) is an entrance to Tatton Park. The Tatton estate was home to the Egerton family, and has given its name to Tatton parliamentary constituency.
Knutsford sees itself as the pre-eminent town within the constituency, which includes the neighbouring communities of Alderley Edge and Wilmslow. The current (since 2001) MP is George Osborne, the Conservative Party's Shadow Chancellor. Former Parliamentary representatives include the distinguished BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, who stood as an Independent in 1997 to defeat the disgraced former Conservative Party MP, Neil Hamilton.
There are many events in and around the town each year including the May Day festivities, The RHS Flower show at Tatton Park and the Cheshire County Show in the village of Tabley, near Knutsford.
The annual Knutsford Royal May Day festival is where hundreds of people parade through the streets, and the May Queen is crowned. During the May Day weekend there is also a funfair run on ’The Heath’ (where the crowning of the May Queen also takes place) This is said to be one of the largest funfairs in the UK. There was controversy at the funfair in 2000 when a fault with the ’Hard Rock Café’ ride led to a teenage girl being thrown from the ride and suffering a fractured skull. John Collins (the fair organiser) did not close the ride after the accident and did not offer the girl in question any compensation.
There is a peculiar May Day custom, still observed today, of "sanding the streets" in Knutsford. The streets are decorated with coloured sands in patterns and pictures.
Tradition has it that King Canute, while fording the River Lily, threw sand from his shoes into the path of a wedding party, wishing the newly-wed as many children as the grains of sand at their feet.. The custom can be traced to the late 1600s. Queen Victoria, in her journal of 1832 recorded: "we arrived at Knutsford, where we were most civilly received, the streets being sanded in shapes which is peculiar to this town".
Knutsford was the model for Elizabeth Gaskell's novel Cranford. She lived in the town for some time, on what is now known as Gaskell Avenue, and she is buried in the Unitarian Chapel' graveyard. Many of the places and people described in her books can be identified as being based on places and people in the town. In 2007 the BBC adapted the novel and produced a popular TV series Cranford. Despite several references to Knutsford, including King Street and The Heath, the TV adaptation was actually filmed in Lacock, Wiltshire. The BBC did not consider filming the series in Knutsford due to the high density of restaurants in Knutsford.
Robbie Williams made reference to the town on his album Sing When You're Winning with the track "Knutsford City Limits". The lyrics describe a man who is offended by being branded "northern scum". The chorus is: 'London's got its gimmicks / and New York's had its minute / But Knutsford City limits / I'll never change".
Knutsford has excellent access to the motorway network, with junctions to the M6 (Junction 19) and M56 (Junction 7) motorways. However, this can also have disadvantages as the A50 which runs through Knutsford town centre follows a similar route to the M6 between Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent, this means that if the M6 is closed due to an accident or roadworks then a large amount of traffic will transfer to the A50 and cause major traffic jams in Knutsford.
Currently there is an hourly service to Altrincham, Stockport and Manchester to the north and Northwich and Chester to the south-west, with extra trains at peak times. There is also one daily direct train which continues from Piccadilly to Salford, Bolton, Preston and Blackpool.
In the past it was common for one bus operator to run most or all of the bus routes in Knutsford. This was once Crosville who ran buses across Cheshire and North Wales. Then later Star Line Travel, who were based in Knutsford and at Manchester Airport. Star Line Travel were taken over by British Bus t/a North Western Road Car Company, then later became part of ArrivaGroup. Star Line Travel’s Knutsford depot has been closed which makes running bus routes in Knutsford an unattractive proposition for Arriva, who now only run one route in Knutsford.
Current bus operators in Knutsford are Aintree based Arriva North West, Northwich based Birtles, Chapel-en-le-Frith based Bowers, Oldham based Swans Travel and Winsford based Town and District Travel.
Manchester Airport is unpopular with residents of Knutsford and surrounding villages not only because of aircraft noise, but also because National Trust woodland in the village of Styal was destroyed to make way for the second runway. Also the number of jobs which Manchester Airport claimed would be created by its expansion was a gross overestimate. In the 1980s Manchester Airport protested plans to build a skyscraper at Parkgate Industrial Estate, which was not directly under Manchester Airport's flight paths at the time, possibly because Manchester Airport wanted to have the option of a second runway.
Some Knutsford residents still refer to the airport by its original name of “Ringway Airport”, named after the hamlet that was originally on the site where the airport opened in 1938. However, the airport has since expanded significantly since.
Knutsford town centre is unpopular with disabled people and parents with young children as the pavements are very narrow and cars parking badly on the street result in vehicles frequently mounting pavements.
Knutsford town centre has a large number of restaurants and relatively very few shops. There are no shops selling products such as CDs and clothing , especially Men's.
Until 2007 there were very few big name shops in Knutsford. 2007 saw the opening of a new street in the town centre on the site of a former hotel, known as Regent Street. Some residents were disgusted by the new street as it saw some big name shops such as Waterstones and Starbucks arrive in Knutsford (Knutsford traditionally has had many small independent shops.) Residents were also unimpressed with the shop fronts. Surprisingly the developers agreed that the shop fronts could have been better and blamed Macclesfield Borough Council for refusing planning permission for a better design.
Knutsford has just one supermarket, the Preston based Booths Supermarket. Tesco used to have a small shop in the town centre, which closed many years ago. Tesco had hoped to open a larger store on the edge of the town on Mobberley Road. However, Mobberley councillors were unhappy with the idea as they thought it may result in more cars travelling through the village of Mobberley. Aldi now plan to open a superstore in Knutsford in 2009.
Knutsford has two Anglican churches, St John the Baptist and St Cross, a Roman Catholic church, a Methodist church, a Unitarian church and a Gospel church. Knutsford is located in the Church of England diocese of Chester and in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury. The nearest Baptist church is in Altrincham and the nearest United Reformed church, Polish Catholic church and Salvation Army are located in Northwich. There are no non-Christian places of worship in Knutsford..
LabWare Ltd. famous for its Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), has its European Headquarters located in Toft Hall on Toft Road.
Living Ventures, which owns chains such as The Living Room and Gusto (formally known as Est Est Est) is based in the town.
AMEC NNC, was created from the progressive amalgamation of the five consortia that were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to build the UK's commercial nuclear power stations. The company was a principal contractor in the design and build of all the UK's Magnox, AGR and PWR nuclear power stations together with one in Italy and one in Japan.
Bestech Systems Ltd., an engineering software company, has its customer service and training centre located in the centre of Knutsford.
Knutsford Hockey Club plays its home games at Knutsford Leisure Centre and are based at the Crosstown Bowling Club on Chelford Road. This 100 year old club runs 4 men's teams, a ladies team, a mixed team and a badgers team. The Men's 1st XI play in Division 1 of The North West Hockey League Knutsford Cricket Club plays its home games in the Meller Braggins Cricket League at Mereheath Lane.
The home ground of Toft Cricket Club is located at Booths Park, Chelford Road. The Cricket Club gets its name from a neighbouring civil parish where the original ground was located when the club was established in 1928. Toft play in the ECB Premier Division of the Cheshire County Cricket League It won the National Village Championship trophy at Lords in 1989.
Knutsford Rugby Club was established in 2004, and is supported by players from Sale Sharks. It was promoted a division within its first season. In the 2008 season, both its 1st XV and 2nd XV gained promotion in their respective leagues.
In 2007 Living TV's Most Haunted filmed two programmes at Tatton Park. Psychic David Wells felt that there were other spirits in the area so Living TV decided to do a four day Halloween special from Knutsford. Prior to that there had been reports of paranormal activity at Booths Supermarket (built on the site of a former prison), visions of a Roman Soldier on the A556 and paranormal activity at a residential address where someone had been murdered in the early 1980s. However, it is not believed that Knutsford has as many spirits as places such as Chester and York.
Knutsford has been home to a number of celebrities including: