It is said by many that the towns name derives from the Danish King Canute who supposedly forded the River Lily in 1016. The name ‘Canutesford’ appears in the Domesday Book (1086), and many names of Danish origin are still found in the town today. In 1292 the town was granted its first charter, and its central location helped it to become known as the ‘Capital’ of Mid Cheshire. In 1955 Knutsford received its own Armorial Bearings featuring the motto ‘Respice, Aspice, Prospice’ (look to the past, the present and the future).
Elizabeth Gaskell, gifted novelist and champion of the working classes chose to base her novel ‘Cranford’ around the town of Knutsford, reflecting on her memories of growing up in the area. Today she is remembered through The Gaskell Memorial Tower, part of The Belle Epoque building.
Created and built in 1907 by glove merchant Richard Harding Watt, The Belle Epoque features two pillars derived from the original St Peter’s Church in Manchester. Several of the original features have been preserved, and the character of The Belle Epoque era remains. Art Nouveau fireplaces and the Mediterranean Roof Garden are among the key features within the building today.
The Mooney Family
The Belle Epoque has been under the ownership of the Mooney family for all of its 40 glorious years. Ironically, neither of the two generations that has run the restaurant for the past 4 decades came to do so by design. The story begins in the 1970’s when Malcolm Mooney – business partner of the world’s first footballing superstar George Best – and his French born wife Dominique set up the Borsalino in Hale Barns, a 1970’s take on French style. The couple launched La Belle Epoque Restaurant Francaise in 1973. The restaurant adopted a much grander feel among the splendour of the former King’s Coffee House. Within the first 6 months, the restaurant endured a tragic blow, as Malcolm was killed in a road accident. The responsibility fell to Malcolm’s twin brother Keith and his wife Nerys. Though neither had any restaurant experience, the couple grew and developed the business through the 1970’s and 1980’s during the era of haute cuisine. As The Belle Epoque celebrated its 25th anniversary, fate once again played its part, as Keith suffered a stroke. His son Matthew, a marketing and advertising professional, took and invigorated the business, embarking on a journey that would bring him to celebrate 40 years of success in 2013. Matthew Mooney is the current Proprietor and Managing Director of The Belle Epoque, and also The Rose n Crown Chop House, also situated on Knutsford’s King Street.