D KNUTSFORD ,
MRS. GASKELL AND
MRS. GASKELL AND KNUTSFOED
REV. G. A. PAYNE
Eleven Illustrations. Introdxiction by
Price 2s. 6d. Ket.
Manchester : Clarkson & Griffiths
London and Warrington : ]\Iackie & Co., Ld.
The Sp/wjc—" Every member of the Gaskell cult, both in
Great Britain ancl the Liiited States, will at one time or
another visit Knutsford, and a visit to Knutsford will be
made much more Interesting when it is taken in the company
of Mr. Payne's volume."
Tlie Academy.—" He has made a pleasant little book, with
an excellent portrait of Mrs. Gaskell as frontispiece."
Manchester Guardiun. — "There is always some pleasure in
reading the expression of genuine enthusiasm, and such an
enthusiasm warms everything that Mr. Payne writes on his
Manchester Courier. — " Delightful little volume."
Liverpool Daily Post. — " A very beautiful book."
Tlie Bookman.— " A pleasant volume. We are grateful for
this picture, from the pen of one who knows the little town
The Inquirer.— "This is a book pleasantly illustrated,
Intei'estingly written, and well printed. In a book of lie
pages dealing with such a subject, everything has necessarily
to be put briefly, but the parts are fairly balanced, and Mr.
Payne well earns the gratitude of all who have a loving
memory of Mrs. Gaskell's delightful and healthful stories,
for brmging together into a nutshell so much interesting
information about her and her characters."
Literari/ World. — " Lovers of Mrs. Gaskell's stories have
cause to thank Mr. Payne for his labour of love."
The Christian World .—" These sketches of Knutsford v/ill
be welcomed. An eminently workmanlike little volume."
The Kidderminster Shuitle.—"Mr. Payne has produced a
very acceptable volume, which cannot faU to win its way
among lovers of literature."
Knutsford Ouaraian.—" Tlie form in which he presents
his facts is pleasing, and this, allied with his "chatty"
appreciative criticism of her works, makes the book exceed-
ingly entertaining." "Everything Mr. Payne tells us about
Mrs. Gaskell is highly interesting and instructive."
Lancashire Faces and Places.—" Tliis little book is
altogether acceptable because it is so entirely sympathetic.
It Is a tribute from a disciple, who has been proud and care-
ful and watcliful to recoid and compress all that, within his
knowledge, others like him have said and done in relation to
the same subject, so that nothing should be lost."
Elizabeth Cleghorx Gaskell
Burn 29lh Sciitdiilxr ISIO ; Dud IVh Xonmhir 1SG6
REV. GEORGE A. PAYNE
(Author of "Edna Lyall : an Appreciation,"' and
" Knutsford," m Dent's Temple Topographies),
CLARKSON & GRIFFITHS, Ltd.
65, Bridge Stkeet
M A C Iv I E & Co. L n .
59, Fleft Street, E.C.
No complete biography of Mrs. Gaskell
can be written, the Misses Gaskell feel-
ing strongly that their mother's wish —
that no biography should be written —
ought to be respected.
The author of this little book has
brought together from papers of his
which have already appeared in the
Gentleman's Magazine, the Sketch, the
Manchester Herald, and other magazines
and newspapers, as a nucleus, a great
deal of information about Knutsford,
which he thinks may be of interest to
all lovers of the writings of the gifted
authoress, who spent much of her time
This is followed by a biography which
has been compiled from sources named,
with remarks on her stories long and
short, bibliographical notes, and a sketch
of the Rev. William Gaskell, M.A., por-
tions of which are culled from the able
sketch written by the Rev. Alexander
Gordon, M.A., for the " Dictionary of
The author desires to express his
grateful thanks to the last named for
this valuable assistance, to " Edna Lyall "
for her invaluable aid in writing an in-
troduction, and for her great willingness
in so readily consenting to do so, and to
T. R. Wilkinson, Esq., for kindly read-
ing the proof-sheets.
Should any source of information be
unacknowledged, he would plead for
consideration in this his first venture.
His object has been to write a little
book which shall give as much informa-
tion as possible about Mrs. Gaskell.
Knutsford, October, igoo.
PREFACE TO SECOND
The first edition of my little book
having been so well received, I am
emboldened to issue a second edition,
with corrections and additions.
It was never my intention to write
a " Life of Mrs. Gaskell," but I am
glad, nevertheless, that this will be done
by Mr. Clement K. Shorter.
There has been a notable revival of
interest in Mrs. Gaskell and her stories.
The special Gaskell collection at Moss
Side, Manchester, has grown apace,
and now consists of 218 volumes, thanks
to the indefatigable labours of Mr. W.
E. A. Axon and Mr. J. A. Green, the
Librarian. A most carefully prepared
hand list has been compiled by Mr.
Green, which all admirers of INIrs,
Gaskell's work will be glad to have.
" Edna Lyall," who very kindly wrote
an introduction to the first edition, has
since passed away, but her influence for
good will long remain.
With regard to Knutsford being the
original of " Cranford," my friend, Mr.
W. B. Tracy (who has also passed
away), put the matter most aptly in a
very kind review of my book, which
appeared in " Lancashire Faces and
Places," when he said, speaking of
drawing from the life, " When a writer
sits down to meditate and write, and
the mental constituents he represents
gather about him, the pleasures of
memory and the tempering of genius
are the chief factors in the subsequent
In the " Cranford Notes " which I
have added to this edition, I have tried
to show that Knutsford was the " old
ancient place" which people smile about
when they read " Cranford."
All lovers of Mrs. Gaskell's books will
welcome the very interesting sketch of
Knutsford, and her connection with it,
which Mr. Payne has compiled with so
Among all our novelists there is
scarcely, we think, one so lovable as
the writer of "Wives and Daughters,"
and all that has been told of her
beautiful character, and her simple,
practical way of living, makes us wish
very earnestly that she herself had not
forbidden the writing of any formal
However, since a complete life is out
of the question, it is well to have such
a faithful outline of facts as this little
book gives ; and Mr. Payne's work will
no doubt send many of us back to
the novels themselves, to refresh our
memories with those delicate character
studies, and wholesome, humorous pic-
tures of life.
" EDNA LYALL."
Noveinbey 3, igoo.
CHANGES IN KNUTSFORD .... 12
THE BELLMAN 15
THE RHYMSTER 20
IS KNUTSFORD THE ORIGINAL OF "CRAN-
" CRANFORD " NOTES 39
BROOK STREET CHAPEL .... 44
BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM . . . 61
MEMORIALS OF MRS. GASKELL . . 102
THE REV. WILLI AM GASKELL, M.A.
THE REV. WILLIAM GASKELL, M.A. . -US
INDEX TO NAMES 125
MRS. GASKELL, COPY OF RICH-
MOND PICTURE . . . Frontispiece
THE ROSE AND CROWN INN,
KNUTSFORD . . . to face page ii
CHURCH HOUSE, KNUTSFORD
HOME OF HIGGINS, THE HIGH-
BROOK STREET CHAPEL, KNUTS-
MRS. GASKELL'S GRAVE
SANDLEBRIDGE MILL .
THE SCHOOL ....
REV. WILLIAM GASKELL, M.A.
MRS. GASKELL AND
This old-fashioned Cheshire town of
about five thousand inhabitants is situ-
ated between Manchester and Chester,
about fifteen miles from the former and
twenty-four from the latter place.
It is not only interesting on account
of its association with Mrs. Gaskell and
her writings, but also on account of its
antiquity, the picturesque beauty of its
rural scenery, and its proximity to several
ancient mansions and historic churches.
There is a tradition to the effect that
when Canute, or Knut, marched north-
wards against the King of Scotland, he
forded a small stream (now covered up)
which united the upper and lower morass,
and thus gave his name to the town.
The Rev. Henry Green, M.A., who in
1859 wrote "Knutsford: its Traditions
and History," one of the most interesting
and complete histories of a small town
that has ever been written, strongly be-
lieved that this was the correct derivation
of the name. He points out that the
very form of the word — for Cunetesford
is the name given to the place in the
Domesday Book — shows that it was de-
rived from the name of a person, and
also that as early as 1609, when William
Smith wrote his " Treatise on Cheshire,"
he said, " Knutsford, I think, should be
called in Latin, Vadum Canuti, that is,
the ford of Canutus." The spelling of
the name varies from Cunetesford to
Knottesford, and from Knotsford to
There was no separate parish of
Knutsford until the year 1741, the parish
church having been built in 1744. There
was a chapel of ease in the town, no
trace of which can now be found ; but a
heap of bricks and stones in the midst
of a very old and disused burying-ground,
lying about a mile to the east of the town,
marks the spot where the ** Parochial
Chappel of Nether Knotsford," in the
parish of Rostherne, formerly stood.
This chapel had a peal of four bells, and
it is a curious fact that when the new
church was built they were melted down
and recast into a peal of five bells, which,
together with a sixth bell paid for by
public subscription, were hung in the
The Saturday market, which to-day is
very small and unimportant, lasting only
for a few hours, was established so long
ago as 1292, and at one time, when it
was held in the market square, was very
large and flourishing. Strangers are
often at a loss to know what the people
do for a living, for there are no industries
except those which are carried on on a
very small scale, such as basket-making,
mat - making, brick - making, and the
making of rustic summer-houses and
The town was much more flourishing
when, as some of the old inhabitants
well remember, silk-weaving was carried
on in most of the cottages, and when as
much as 30s. per week could be earned
at the loom. The work was brought
from Macclesfield and given out to the
people, who sometimes had to carry the
finished product back a distance of
twelve miles. But while silk was brought
from Macclesfield, cotton was brought
from Manchester, and on many fustian
looms as much as from 25s. to 27s. per
week was regularly earned. Going back
again to an earlier period, about a hun-
dred and fifty years ago, the making of
linen thread was the staple industry.
The district is famous above all else
for its fine trees. Within a radius of two
miles from the parish church, delightful
avenues of oak, beech, and lime may be
found, the Lime Walk in Booth Park
being especially lovely. There are a
number of beautiful parks in the neigh-
bourhood, among them being Tatton
Park, the seat of Earl Eg-erton of Tatton ;
Tabley, the seat of Lady Leighton
Warren, whose brother, the late Lord
de Tabley, was the author of several
charming volumes of poetry, two of the
best known being " Poems : Dramatic and
Lyrical," First and Second Series. Other
parks are Toft, Booth, Peover, and Mere.
Though there is no river, some of the
largest meres in Cheshire are in the
immediate vicinity. Of these, Tatton,
Rostherne and Mere are each about
a mile in length, and Rostherne in
some places is over one hundred feet in
Knutsford is a grand field for the
archaeologist, many of the mansions
dating back to very early times. One
of the most interesting of these is Tabley
Old Hall, situated about two and a half
miles from Knutsford, on the road to
Northwich.^ The house, which is now
kept as a show place — a modern resi-
dence having been built in the centre of
the park in 1744 — is built on an island
in Tabley Mere, evidently with a view to
its security from attack. It hes a little
distance from the ancient Roman road —
Watling Street — which runs from Man-
chester to Chester. The present building
is a good specimen of Ehzabethan archi-
tecture, with large stone windows having
mullions and transoms. The original
structure was built in the reign of
Richard II. It was a " many-gabled and
highly picturesque example of the half-
timbered style of building, and was
iReference may be made besides to " Knutsford :
its Traditions and History," by Rev. Henry Green,
M.A. ; Ormerod's " Cheshire " ; and " Old Halls in
Lancashire and Cheshire," by Henry Taylor.
restored and enlarged by Sir Peter
Leicester in 1671."
The old chapel, which is adjacent to
the Hall, was built in 1675, and the
high-backed oaken pews face north and
south ; the men, according to an ancient
custom, sitting on the one side, and the
women on the other. The father of the
late Lord de Tabley is said to have re-
marked that the women ought to allow
the men to rest at least one hour in the
week. The park, which is large and
well wooded, is closed to the public ; but
the Old Hall may be visited by procuring
an order from Lady Leighton Warren,
who is very kind to people who are
really interested. " Sir Nicholas De
Leycester, Knight, was Seneschall to
the greate subject & favourite Henry
Lacy, Earl of Lincoln & Constable of
Cheshire, in the reigne of K. Edward L,
about A,D. 1288. " ^
Tenth in descent from Sir Nicholas
was Peter Leycester, who married Alice,
daughter of Sir John Holford in 1529.
Holford Hall, a very pretty black and
white buildingjis not far from Tabley Hall.
1 " Travels in England," by Richard le
Gallienne, p. 261.
Returning once again to the Old Hall,
we find that the great hall is a spacious
apartment, forty feet long by twenty-five
feet wide, with a gallery on three sides,
the roof being supported by huge timbers
roughly hewn. The walls are festooned
with old armour, spears, and pikes, and
with instruments of war and other
curios brought from foreign lands by
different members of the family. Sir
Peter Leicester who restored and en-
larged Tabley Old Hall, was created a
baronet in 1660. He it was who wrote
an invaluable " History of the Bucklow
Hundred of Cheshire."
Other halls in the neighbourhood date
back to a period far remote, that at Over
Tabley, now used as a farmhouse by Mr.
John Dean, having been built about 1291,
and the Hall at Toft, in the midst of a
beautifully wooded park, dating from the
reign of Richard I., while Higher Peover
Hall, about three miles from Knutsford,
has been *' the homestead of the Main-
warings from times, perhaps, long anterior
to the Conquest."
Knutsford is to this day an old-world
sort of place. The cattle fair is still
partly held in the public streets, and
until quite recently the bellman, or town-
crier, prefaced any announcement he had
to make with, " God save the Queen and
the lord of this manor," in return for
which he received a new suit of clothes
each year. When the Queen ascended
the throne we are told that the old bell-
man, Jeremy Low, who was a noted
public character, found it difficult not to
make his customary prelude, " God save
the King and the lord of this manor,"
and frequently had to correct himself.
On one occasion, being so exasperated
with himself for having to say " God
save the King — Queen," and forgetting
for the moment the loyalty due to his
sovereign, he turned round, and, in a
growling undertone, said, "God d
The old custom, which seems peculiar
to Knutsford, of " sanding " for marriages
and special occasions, is still most care-
fully observed. Designs, some of which
are extremely artistic, are worked out in
sand on the pavements and across the
streets in front of the houses.
Another old custom, the crowning of
the " May Queen," is carried out amid
great pomp and splendour. Thousands
of people flock to Knutsford annually to
see the procession which passes through
the principal streets of the town to the
heath, where the coronation ceremony is
performed. The sedan chair, used in the
old Cranford days, is regularly carried in
The principal street — King Street —
is picturesque and quaint, owing to the
irregularity of the buildings, some being
oak-timbered, and many having thatched
roofs. There is one old house, " The
Rose and Crown," which bears the date
1041.-^ Strangers who do not know that
the top of the 6 (1641) must have been
taken off at some time, have been known
to remark that it is really astonishing
that such houses should have been built
iThe top of the 6has now been restored. — G.A.P
CHANGES IN KNUTSFORD
Knutsford is still in many respects
" the old ancient place, " but great changes
have been effected in its outward aspect
since the time when Elizabeth Cleghorn
Stevenson passed her girlhood here.
Among the most striking of these may
be mentioned : —
(i.) The railway was constructed in
1862,1 ^nd a bridge in King Street built
upon the site of a few ancient cottages
and three magnificent elms, which the
oldest inhabitants can very well re-
In one of these cottages an old milk-
vendor lived, and on a waste piece of
ground opposite stood the pump which
supplied the people in the immediate
vicinity with water. At one time, we are
told, a local wag— Georgie Barnwell
(Potter) — knocked the old man up in the
night and informed him that his favourite
cow had got a turnip in her throat, and
was " like to be choked ; " and his anger,
not to say his language, will be better
1 The Railway was publicly opened on May
imagined than described when he was
led across to the pump, the spout of
which had been stopped up with a turnip.
(2.) Where the house now stands in
which the governor of the gaol lives, the
ancient White Hart Inn formerly stood,
and the encouraging announcement,
" Good Provision for Man and Beast,"
met ihe traveller's gaze. Adjoining this
were the village smithy, a wheelwright's
shop, and a few cottages, in one of which
lived John Eden, for many years the
sexton at the parish church.
(3.) A large number of detached and
semi - detached villas have been built,
thus bringing from Manchester a goodly
number of men to the home of the
(4.) The stocks (long since removed)
stood under the church wall in King
Street. Here, we understand, the before-
mentioned Georgia Barnwell, less than
forty years ago, was spending a little
time. When his brother Samuel, seeing
him in this sad plight, said, " Tha looks
well naa," George, pointing over to the
churchyard, rejoined with, " And so will
thee when tha gets over th' wall."
(5.) The office of the bellman is now
extinct, and the court-house, under
which the bellman (who was also chief
constable) lived, is now, though still
standing in the market square, no longer
used for its original purpose.
(6.) A number of houses and five cotton
mills formerly stood at the " top of the
bottom street," but they were pulled
down by a gentleman who bought the
property and improved the entrance to
(7.) The river Lily, which Canute is
supposed to have forded (for is it not
Canute's ford ?), then ran across Brook
The two following sketches, "The
Bellman " and "The Rhymster," are here
introduced in order to give the reader a
clear idea what kind of place Knutsford
was, and showing types of the people to
be met vvdth, together with illustrations
of the quaint customs which were strictly
In these days, when advertising is so
general, with miles of hoarding, cheap
and good printing, and apt illustration,
there is no need for the services of the
bellman or town crier, and consequently
we find the office falling into disuse. In
a few places, however, like Altrincham,
for instance, the prefatory announcement,
"Oyez! Oyez ! Oyez!" may still be
heard, though it is called " Oh yes ! Oh
yes! Oh yes!" and then follows "God
bless the Queen and the lord of this
Concerning some of these bellmen
there were traits and peculiarities which
it seems to us we do well to recall.
Manchester has had her interesting
bellmen, but Knutsford has had one or
two which are almost equally interesting,
though it is a difficult matter to get any
authentic information concerning them.
Fifty years ago the bellman was very
much in evidence on bonfire night. The
carrying of the effigy of Guy Faux
through the pubHc streets of Knutsford
at the head of a rabble of boys and
youths was made one of the leading
features of the festival. The boys for
weeks beforehand were busy gathering
together their piles of wood, and many a
paling was stripped of a stake and many
a tree was robbed of a bough.
The effigy was made by the leading
tailor, and was a full-sized figure, which
was carried by Bill Smith, the bellman,
mounted on a mule. On such an occasion
as this, of course. Bill Smith would wear
his livery, for he was not only bellman
but constable too.
He lived in the old market-place
where, years before, the bonfire used to
be kindled, at the lock-up, which to this
day may be found beneath the now dis-
used court-house. His under-garments
the outside world knew little about, for
they were covered by a huge overcoat
reaching down nearly to his heels. He
wore, if we may say so, a tall hat which
was very short, broad-brimmed, and sur-
rounded by a silver band, and he was a
tall, burly man.
There must have been quite a stir in
this quaint town in the good old time
when Bill mounted his charger, and at
the head of a rowdy gang led the way
through the principal streets to the Com-
mon, where Guy was raised high up
on the pile, and eventually brought down
amid the roaring of the flames and the
shouting of the boys.
But this was not the end of the festival.
There was a feast, " The BifF Stake
Atin," at the " George," for Bill went
round to the butchers with a big basket,
into which they each put a steak or a
chop as their contribution to the fun of
the evening, and for a small charge the
townspeople could join in eating and
drinking, especially drinking, to the
memory of the traitor Guy. Bill Smith
was succeeded in his office by Moses
Coppock, whom many will remember,
but his predecessor was a much more
He is the Jeremy Low of whom the
Rev. Henry Green, M.A., speaks in his
" History of Knutsford." A lady had
kindly undertaken to knit some woollen
hose for Jeremiah, but, bethinking himself
of the spindle-like condition of his legs,
with great consideration he went to the
lady to beg she would not trouble herself
to make any cawlves to his stockings,
"Because," said the old man, "because
I have no cawlves to my legs." He was
a very old man when the Queen ascended
the throne, and made many a blunder, to
the intense amusement of the bystanders,
in repeating the familiar phrase, which
was the preliminary to any announce-
ment he had to make, " God bless the
King, and the lord of this manor," to
which the boys added, " And John Long,
the tanner." Bill Smith, who was a tall,
courtly man, used to take off his hat
when he made this announcement. Not
so Jeremy !
Jeremy Low was short and thin, a
cripple with a short leg, and wore a boot
with a high heel. He was a hunchback,
the hump being made, it would appear,
to carry his bell on. He had very thin
legs and a wall eye, and was dressed in
a drab coat with red collar, knee breeches,
and a broad-brimmed silver-laced hat, and