Richard Harding Watt (1842-1914) was a local philanthropist and idealist with a passion for building, who made his fortune from glove making in Manchester.
The Grade II* Gaskell Memorial Tower and King’s Coffee House was designed by Richard Harding Watt with assistance from W. Longworth, and was opened in 1907. Harding Watt responsible for the town’s eclectic Italianate buildings and this development is one of his iconic designs.
As originally built, it had the triple function of being council offices, a coffee house, and a memorial to the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, a former resident of the town, known as Gaskell Tower which incorporates two depictions of her and the titles of her novels are inscribed.
The building is owned by Knutsford Town Council and is used as a wedding venue and restaurant, The Belle Epoque. Features include two pillars derived from the original St Peter’s Church in Manchester and the Art Nouveau character remains, with the fireplaces and the Mediterranean Roof Garden.
The Belle Epoque team will be providing an informal tour of the building.
- Thursday 7 September: 10:00-12:00
No booking required
Watt wanted to commemorate the novelist Mrs Gaskell, who had lived in Knutsford and based some of her works on the town, in particular Cranford. The building was opened on 23 March 1907 in the presence of one of Mrs Gaskell’s grandsons. A plaque was placed on the tower on 29 September 1960 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Mrs Gaskell’s birth and proclaims: “THIS PLAQUE WAS PLACED HERE ON THE OCCASION OF MRS GASKELL’S 150th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY, SEPT 29th 1960 AND TO RECORD THAT THIS TOWER WAS ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF MRS GASKELL BY MR RH WATT IN MARCH 1907”