60 KING STREET aka KINGS COFFEE HOUSE (formerly known as the Belle Epoque)
In 2021/22, the Town Council was exploring the possibility of securing major HLF funding to renovate the building in one large programme. Following further investigation, we have concluded that our likelihood of success is not sufficient for us to risk the time and financial resources that are necessary to develop a comprehensive funding bid – in short, we don’t want to risk spending £50k+ on the professional costs required to develop a HLF proposal when we stand a strong chance of not outcompeting more in-need areas. We are now, therefore, inviting proposals for the future use of the building.
Knutsford Town Council is inviting proposals for the future use of 60 King Street with a deadline of 10th March for proposals to be submitted. All proposals will then be considered at a special meeting of the Town Council the week commencing 20th March.
COMMUNITY LED SCHEME
The Town Council may consider a community led scheme whereby the council gives a full repairing and insurance lease to a charity/CIC to operate on a not-for-profit basis.
Proposals for a community led scheme should:
- Detail the proposed use of the building including an indicative plan of how the different areas of the building will be used
- Provide a business case for the operation of the building, detailing how the extensive repairs required to the building will be undertaken, phased and funded
- Detail the proposed personnel involved in the organisation and their relevant experience and expertise
- Include a project timeline and action plan
PURCHASE OF THE FREEHOLD
The Town Council may consider sale of the freehold of the building. The guide price for the property is £1.1m and it offers extensive accommodation including private garden space. It is the only detached property on King Street and one of the most prominent buildings in Knutsford.
Proposals for the purchase of the freehold should:
- Detail the proposed purchase price – based on the condition of the property and not subject to further survey
- Overview any proposed alterations to the property
- Detail the proposed use for the building and how this would support the vitality of Knutsford Town Centre
- Include an indicative plan of how the different areas of the building will be used
Note: the property is subject to an option to tax and VAT will be chargeable on the sale price.
LEASES AND OTHER OPTIONS
The Town Council may consider any other options for the future of the building, including the letting of the property. Proposals for alternative uses should fully detail the proposal in accordance with the guidance set out above.
Note: any lease will be subject to VAT.
All proposals must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4pm on Friday 10th March. Late submissions may not be considered.
Viewings of the building for those preparing a proposal will be held on Friday 27th January from 10am to 4pm; booking is required and a slot can be booked by emailing email@example.com with your preferred time.
60 King Street is the most notable creation of Victorian glove merchant Richard Harding Watt who transformed the skyline of Knutsford with his unique collection of Italianate buildings. The Kings Coffee House (as the building is also known) was designed by Watt with architect W Longworth and built between 1904 and 1909.
The building was constructed in two phases; the left side as a reading room and coffee room with the impressive Gaskell Memorial Tower was built first and Watt then acquired the adjacent Hat and Heathers Inn which allowed the building to be enlarged. The second half of the building included the use of two huge columns taken from Manchester’s St Peters Church as part of its demolition.
Watt was keen to create a memorial to Elizabeth Gaskell, the town’s famous author who immortalised Knutsford in her own Cranford. The memorial tower features the names of most of Gaskell’s books along with a bronze relief plaque of Gaksell by Archille d’Orsi and a stone bust to the front of the tower. At the entrance to this half of the building there is also a column featuring the names of all monarchs of England through to Edward VII.
Watt’s aim in creating the Kings Coffee House was to “attract the inhabitants of Knutsford away from the local inns and public houses”. The building comprised a coffee house with ground floor smoking room and a library where the town could read daily newspapers for free. The first floor included a music room, reading room and ballroom along with a number of bedrooms.
Watt died suddenly in 1913 after falling from his pony and trap whilst travelling along Brook Street; his widow, Ethel, then gifted the building to the Knutsford Urban District Council which used part of the building as its offices. The council subsequently purchased the former Prison Governor’s house for its offices in the 1930s.
From 1974 to 2019 the building was leased by La Belle Epoque Limited and operated as the Belle Epoque restaurant. This started out as French fine dining before latterly becoming a wedding venue. The company went into administration in 2019 since which point the building has been vacant.
60 King Street is one of only eight Grade II* listed buildings in Knutsford. Grade II* listed buildings account for just 5.5% of the listed buildings in the UK and are “particularly important buildings of more than special interest”.
Here’s what the Historic England entry says about the building:
Coffee house and council offices, incorporating Gaskell Memorial tower, now restaurant. 1907-1908. By W Longworth. For Richard Harding Watt. Coursed and squared rubble with flat roofs.
STYLE: Eclectic Italianate.
PLAN: asymmetrical with council chamber forming main range, the Gaskell Memorial tower projecting forward of this to the left, the entrance block of the former coffee house projecting to the right, leaving a small courtyard between them. Screen wall to courtyard to right, with pantiled roof above. 4-window range of coffee house and former ballroom facing on to courtyard, which is closed to the rear by screen of Roman Doric columns.
EXTERIOR: main entrance at corner of coffee house block, in recessed porch. The angle is carried on an octagonal column carrying inscriptions in a variety of typography, and richly carved low relief bands. Oriel window alongside with small panes, and 3-windows to first floor below stepped parapet. Tower to left with external stair, tiny bow window to ground floor, and upper window divided by a heavy transom. Domed cap carried on open lantern. Small courtyard recessed beyond tower, with windows of council offices in rear range. Gaskell Memorial Tower closes this central courtyard to the left. Its white stone changes to yellow sandstone above the first floor. Recessed bow window to ground floor, and bust in niche over. Square oriel window offset above. Randomly projecting blocks, and bronze bust on inner face. Arcaded windows to upper storey, and open upper stage articulated by pilasters. Gateway to passage adjoins tower to left, with pantiled floor above archway.
INTERIOR: the internal planning remains substantially unaltered, and much of the original interior design survives, including 2 fire surrounds with copper hoods to ground floor, Boarded and panelled walling in lower rooms and former council chamber, and a mural in the former coffee house. An interesting composition, the architect clearly expressing awareness of the bold work of other Edwardian Free Style contemporaries, most notably Holden.