The Royal George King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6EE
The Royal George Is Currently For Sale
The Royal George is situated in the middle of Knutsford. Though it was indeed a coaching inn, its origins go back even further to sometime in the 1300s. It appears narrow from the street, but that is deceptive because it is deep and has thirty-one bedrooms and five large function rooms. Many of the ghostly happenings occur on the first floor around the high-ceilinged ballroom with its crystal chandeliers. This is one of the oldest parts of the hotel. There are no bedrooms nearby, so at night the ballroom is locked.
However, nearly every night the night porters sit below and listen to many strange sounds from the locked room. There are often footsteps and other sounds of movement and in the morning objects are not in their proper places, though no one could have got in or out without a key.
The story is that a local highwayman called Edward Higgins or ‘Highwayman’ was caught breaking into the ballroom one night in 1767, intent on robbery. Higgins played the gentleman during the day, riding with the local hunt, but at night he muffled his horse’s hooves and terrorised the highways and byways of this part of Cheshire. The night he broke into the Royal George, however, was one step too far.
He was seized and held in the cellars overnight before being hung the next day. It is unsure where he was hung. Some stories say they hung him in the cellar itself, though that seems unlikely. It’s probable the story grew up to explain the weird atmosphere in the cellar.
The cellar is off limits to the public. It is not really used for anything anymore—just a strange old room in an atmospheric old building.
When Higgins was locked up in the cellar, he used some rough chalk to draw a picture of himself behind a barred window—just his face and his hands, holding onto the bars. The image is still there to this day – sometimes.
It has been known for the staff to take a few drinks to steady their nerves and then to go down to the cellar with bleach, or even with a bucket of paint, and erase the image. Whatever they do, it always comes back, and some days it’s there and some days it isn’t.
The Royal George also has connections with Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell, the Victorian author of ‘North and South’. She was brought up by her aunt in Knutsford and did some of her writing in the Round Room at the Royal George.
The Round Room adjoins the haunted Ballroom and was originally the wig room where the gentry kept their powdered perruques during the ball.
Mrs Gaskell’s ghost has supposedly been seen in the Round Room and the room has an unpleasant atmosphere. Mrs Gaskell was such a warm-hearted humanitarian that it seems unlikely that it’s her to blame for the nasty atmosphere that makes small children burst into tears. Apart from small children, other residents have complained that some presence was with them in the Round Room and there are unaccountably cold patches.
There is another room nearby named the Clarford Suite, after one of Mrs Gaskell’s novels. It’s on the way to the main kitchen but if there’s no function on the Clarford Suite’s lights are usually left off, so staff walk through it in the dark. Many people, including the assistant manager’s sister, have seen a luminous white figure sitting in one of the chairs there.