Knutsford drops 'narrow' 18th Century view on romance with wider pavements plan

Image caption Cranford author Elizabeth Gaskell grew up in Knutsford

A market town's narrow pavements - designed that way in the 18th Century to stop romantic couples walking hand-in-hand - are to be widened.

Spinster Lady Jane Stanley, daughter of the 11th Earl of Derby, did not like couples walking together along the main street in Knutsford, Cheshire.

Lady Jane suggested as her own epitaph: "A maid I lived and a maid I died; I never was asked and never denied."

Residents will now be consulted over the redevelopment plans by the council.

"I fear there will be lots of people walking hand-in-hand when it is widened," Cheshire East Councillor Peter Raynes told BBC Radio Manchester.

"There is a serious side in that the pavements are not safe for disabled people and we need of course to deal with that."

Image copyright Cheshir East Council
Image caption The plans are subject to public consultation

He added: "We think we've done quite a good job but we'll see what the public think."

Residents are being asked by Cheshire East Council to comment on plans for King Street which also include measures to improve traffic flow and shop deliveries.

The council hopes the improvements will make the town's main shopping area and eating-out destination a "more vibrant public space".

Lady Jane's formidable reputation was typified by an incident in 1859 when a man who got in her way received a firm tap from her gold-headed cane, followed by the words: "Take that fellow!"

She often avoided confrontations on the narrow pavements by travelling in her sedan chair, which can still be seen in the town's heritage centre.

Nineteenth Century novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who grew up Knutsford, used it as the setting for her book Cranford, which was filmed in 2007 as a BBC TV series starring Dame Judi Dench.

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