George Osborne, Raymond Blanc and our own Director-General Dame Helen Ghosh have all jumped the River Lily. Today follow in theirs and King Canute’s footsteps and ‘ford’ the Lily as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.
Canute’s Crossing is a free-to-all community event, celebrating the legend that in 1016 King Canute ‘forded the Lily’ and gave rise to the town’s name, recorded as Canutesford in the Domesday Book. In today’s blog Sarah Flannery and Julie Tempest, of Knutsford Promenades Community Association, tell us about how they’re keeping local memories alive.
Knutsford Promenades began in 2013 as essentially street theatre with music, dance and even a giant puppet leading a procession through the town centre with its backdrop of historic buildings.
Every year the theme and the way it’s been interpreted has been different but the vision to base the event on a combination of local living memories and history remains consistent.
Funding is of course key to the success of any community-focused event which is free to all, and it’s fair to say that money isn’t readily available. So we needed to look at our strengths, our town, and which direction the Promenades would take in 2016.
Julie had helped promote Brook Street Chapel’s involvement in the 2015 Heritage Open Days festival. Brook Street has been taking part for some years but was a bit of a lone wolf as the only listed building (in a town of over 100 listed buildings) involved in the yearly festival. Meanwhile Sarah had come to know the Tabley House Collection. So putting together those two Grade I buildings, Knutsford Heritage Open Days was born!
We pitched our pilot scheme project to our main sponsor, Bruntwood, who were delighted to support us and open Booths Hall, the seat of the Legh family for more than 600 years, now used as serviced offices as part of a purpose-built development in fine parkland.
The pilot scheme was planned to have around half a dozen sites but developed a life of its own when we started linking the town’s main historic figures Elizabeth Gaskell, Richard Harding Watt and Sir Henry Royce with Knutsford’s buildings.
We’ve ended up with 34 sites and events as Knutsford has taken the festival to heart.
The house Richard Harding Watt designed and built for himself to live in was our first ‘sold out’ private house. A cavalcade of vintage Rolls-Royces will drive around the town before ending at Royce’s house. And Gaskell fans can follow the author’s time in Knutsford by visiting the homes and buildings she knew in her formative years.
We were particularly delighted to get permission to open the Assembly Rooms immortalised in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and closed some 15 plus years ago when the Royal George was redeveloped. A procession of historic figures have visited the Royal George (and will be seen again at Canute’s Crossing) though in more recent history, the ballroom has seen many celebrations. One couple who held their wedding reception in the George have volunteered to man the building during Heritage Open Days.
The owners of a divine arts and crafts house designed and built by Baillie Scott wanted to be involved but were worried that people wouldn’t be interested in seeing the house – absolutely not a problem, it’s a star attraction and became the second to be ‘sold out’!
Our big community event is Canute’s Crossing, our homage to the legend that Canute came to Knutsford 1,000 years ago and forded the River Lily. The idea of crossing Europe’s smallest mapped river, the Lily, some two foot wide, to follow in Canute’s footsteps has tickled the fancy of a huge cross section of the community, from the tiny tots at a local day nursery, to the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire. Even the National Trust’s Director-General Dame Helen Ghosh was intrigued by our plans and made the crossing ‘ballet-style’.
Even though we both have a lot of events experience, organising a town-wide contribution to Heritage Open Days has taught us a lot. From snippets of local history to how to correctly register events on the HODs website! It’s been frustrating at times but overall really good fun!
Blog by Sarah Flannery & Julie Tempest, Knutsford Promenades Community Association, organisers of Knutsford Heritage Open Days.
More on how to join the fun at Canute’s Crossing here: http://knutsfordpromenades.co.uk/how-to-be-one-in-1000-at-canutes-crossing/
Check out the full programme of events taking place in Knutsford here: http://knutsfordpromenades.co.uk/
To plan your activities for Heritage Open Days 2016 visit https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/ to see what events are happening in your area.
Share your cultural treasure by posting a picture or video on social media using the hashtags #TreasureYourTreasures and #HODs.