Richard Harding Watt & Knutsford’s History

Richard Harding Watt & Knutsford’s History

Richard Harding Watt (1842-1913) was a local philanthropist, traveller and idealist with a passion for building, who made his fortune from glove making in Manchester. He worked with four professional architects to transform the townscape of Knutsford with a series of eccentric buildings.

Watt designed some buildings himself, but usually used four architects to execute his plans, namely Walter Aston, John Brooke, Harry S. Fairhurst, and William Longworth. He bought a tannery on Drury Lane, to the north of the town centre, in 1898 and along with Fairhurst, adapted the buildings into a laundry and cottages. The Ruskin Recreation Rooms were built as reading rooms and a fire station as part of the development and the blue plaque on the exterior reads: “A ‘Welcome Club’ for officers of the American Third Army was opened in this building by General George S Patton Commanding Officer on 25th April 1944 prior to participation in the Liberation of Europe June 1944 to May 1945″.

One of Watt’s other buildings, the King’s Coffee House and Gaskell Memorial Tower, now known as The Belle Époque, is in the centre of the town, and his seven extraordinary, Italianate-style houses are on Legh Road, which doubled up for Shanghai in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. Harding Watt actually lived in The Old Croft.

Giovanni’s was originally Knutsford’s main post office and was once owned by Richard Harding Watt. He had initially intended to move the post office into a more central location in the town, however his plans were met with indifference by the town council, so he contented himself with adding a sundial in 1908 and a balcony.

Two type K6 telephone boxes, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935 stand outside the building which remained the town’s main post office until 1990’s. These are Grade II listed.

If you wish to visit the beautiful building and see what the Old Post Office has become, why not pop down to Giovanni’s and take in the gorgeous sights of the building, along with some delicious Italian cuisine and some refreshing drinks. We’re located at 125a King Street, Knutsford WA16 6EH.
Our incredible offers on lunch time menus is not to be missed and we’re sure you’ll be impressed by our fabulous food and service. If you wish to book a table call us on 01565 632 576 or visit

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