Why I love Knutsford at Christmas
PUBLISHED: 14:21 24 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:46 02 November 2015
Janet Reeder gets into the festive spirit on a visit to a small town with some big attractions
We’re entering into the festive spirit with a visit to Knutsford where contemporary pleasures rub up alongside blatant nostalgia.
One the one hand, a small town steeped in history with cobbled courtyards and streets so narrow that you can hardly drive your Bentley through them and on the other, a thriving centre for food, shopping and the arts.
From antiques and Vermillion gallery’s new arts space to the Elizabeth Gaskell connection and annual literature festival this is a town that punches above its weight culturally.
Another main attraction has to be the splendid selection of shops and bars that serve the community and the town’s tourist trade. One minute you might be browsing rails of designer clothing and the next ordering a turkey from the lovely old fashioned looking butcher.
Of course this makes Knutsford a fantastic place to track down a more unique kind of Christmas gift. The vintage shops are ideal for those who love to take their time seeking something special , while the boutiques are where label queens can find their perfect LBD, or set up a wish list of gifts to give to their nearest and dearest.
And let’s not forget glorious Tatton Park, which is right on the doorstep. A frosty stroll to the mansion house which is dressed in an absolutely magical Nutcracker Theme for Christmas 20014 before heading out for a delicious lunch at a country inn - well does life really get any better?
We asked those who live and work in the town just what makes it so special.
Lynette loves make up artistry and has taken it to a new level launching her own brand innovative products. Her Minshull Street-based studio is where clients can get a professional look and discover the colours that are right for them. “You, but better” is her mantra.
‘I came here because of the independent retailers as it is a place that really seems to nurture smaller businesses. I love the fact there are so many different kinds of people here in Knutsford - fun chic ladies, older, elegant ladies, it is a really good mix of people. it also has a really good night life and lots of bar culture.
There are going to be lots of activities here over Christmas, including the switch on weekend so I will definitely be getting involved. We will be doing make up for individuals as well as parties. Giving them make up tips and doing an individual make up on them. It should be great fun.
It’s got to be Gusto. I go there all the time for the food and atmosphere.
Jane is a professional artist who exhibits and also works part time at the Vermillion Gallery on Princess Street.
‘I like the fact that you can get everything here, clothes, food, a good nightlife and it is vibrant and atmospheric - not just at Christmas time or weekends but if you come up in the week it feels busy as well.
Generally the people are nice and friendly too. It’s not intimidating like a city can be but there is enough here to keep things interesting ‘
I’m just hanging my own collection Love is Like a Butterfly. Obviously I am looking forward to the opening of the new studio space which if not the biggest in Europe will be the biggest in the UK.
Vermillion Gallery, where she exhibits and works.
Paul co-owns several restaurants with business partner Dave Mooney, one of which is the Old Sessions House on Princess Street.
‘We opened the Lord Binning in Kelsall and wanted to expand. I’m ex living Ventures and Dave is former chef/patron at the Belle Epoque and so it made sense - plus how many towns can you drive through and check out Range Rover, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Maclaren dealerships? It’s destination for drivers and the location of The Old Sessions House is perfect. Now this is where we have our headquarters and it is our busiest and most profitable restaurant.
‘Personally, I will be coming to the Old Sessions House with my family. It’s our third Christmas here and we’ll be ding two sittings on the day. These are pretty much sold out. We’ve discovered that people prefer to have Christmas lunch in a restaurant, they can enjoy their meal the go home and everything’s tidy!’
It’s a real community and for businesses it is brilliant - so easy to get to and it’s safe as well.
Jennifer has lived in Knutsford for all her 21 years and works at the Retro Room a boutique crammed with vintage clothes, jewellery and accessories.
‘I like how quaint it is, how small it is, which makes the experience here a lot more personal. And there’s Tatton Park. We are so lucky to have that on our doorstep. We sometimes take it for granted. it’s the perfect setting for a winter wonderland with its deer and beautiful country house.
The Retro Room is taking part in the village Bazaar catwalk show at the Ideal Home show at the Trafford Centre December 20th so that’s really exciting.
The Eldon where I worked for three years. It’s a lovely, friendly traditional village pub.
Helen owns Verity Plum in the heart of Knutsford. The Minshull Street, based store is now 10 years old and is a destination boutique for plus size style mavens.
It’s a pretty town that is full of independent shops and its own sense of style. That is certainly what attracted me to Knutsford when I first came here. Knutsford is a great destination town. The fact that there’s not an homogenized culture here is what I like about it.
This is our busiest time of the year. Our regular customers come from within a 50 mile radius and some from even further away. We have our new partywear coming in and that’s always exciting.
Walking up to the lake at Tatton Park
Michelle Samsa is the manager at Willow a ladieswear boutique on King Street.
I think it is the fantastic choice of shops and it’s also a restful place. There’s lots to see and it has history as well.
We open a Christmas floor with accessories and gifts and we also have a Christmas wish list so ladies can tell their husbands the things they wish they could have for the big day.
La Belle Epoque, which for me has fantastic food and an interesting ambience.
To some he’s “Mr Knutsford” and to others “Mr Smelly” as a result of his twin passions, Knutsford and his deliciously fragrant Pulse of Perfumery boutique. When he took over as head of the retailers association there were seven members, now he has 132 on his database. ‘My strapline is thrive not just survive’. he says.
As a director of La Perla for 25 years I would travel the UK for the brand and come across places and fall in love with them. Knutsford was one of them. There’s just something lovely about it - but when we first took over the shop the town had become sad. But we took a gamble...and suddenly there was a buzz. There’s a real community here as well as a business community and a magic about the place.
As well as taking part in festivities like the lights switch on and Christmas tree festival we will be holding our regular events such as fragrance parties. Our fragrances cost exactly the same as those in John Lewis and House of fragrance but we do things differently. We are all about customer service.
Discovering things about the place. We’ve everything from the Deli Boys to Bikes and Gear and we’ve even got an antique carpet cleaner here in Knutsford. How great is that?
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN KNUTSFORD THIS CHRISTMAS
1. Knutsford Christmas weekend
When? November 29th-30th
A fun-filled weekend for all the family. The Knutsford Christmas Weekend incorporates the Christmas market, Christmas lights switch-on, the crib service and several other events. The Christmas market returns to Princess Street on Saturday (12 pm – 7 pm) and Sunday (11 am – 5 pm) with a great selection of stalls selling a range of fine foods and gifts, perfect for treating your loved ones. On Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, entertainment will take to the stage in Canute Square ready for the Christmas lights switch-on at 6 pm.
2. Makers Artisan Market, Princess Street, Knutsford
When? On the first Sunday of every month (11am – 4pm)
Fine food, drink, art, design and craft market supporting emerging and established local businesses
3. Knutsford Community Christmas Tree Festival
When? From Friday 5th December through to Sunday 7th
Knutsford organisations and businesses join together to give everyone a taste of Christmas magic and sparkle.
It takes place in the awe-inspiring setting of St Cross Church.
4. Christmas Ball in aid of Francis House Children’s Hospice
When? Friday 5th December at The Mere Golf Resort and Spa
Last year’s ball sold out and raised a profit for the hospice of just over £110,000. The silent and live auctions on the night raised just under £79,000 - a staggering amount of money given from a very generous audience.
5. Lantern Parade
When? Saturday 6th December 2014
This is a new event for 2014, and in conjunction with the St Cross Christmas Tree Festival, is Knutsford’s first Lantern Parade. Children of all ages are invited to make a lantern and then join in the parade, which will start at 4pm on Saturday December 6th from St Cross Church and proceed through the Barncroft and the Moor before making its way around the town centre, lighting up the night sky.