Kate Hardy

The Court House, Knutsford review

Kate Hardy
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Once derelict, this superbly renovated former Crown Court simply oozes history. Part of the Flat Cap Hotel group, it opened in June 2017 and although it has only been open for five months, it has a relaxed and confident feel.

Stepping inside this Georgian Sessions House is a bit like stepping back in time as much of original fittings have been retained and restored with lovely wooden panelling and seating. Closed as a court house in 2010, this extraordinary tea room has a history you can dine out on. You can see the original seating area where members of the public would have sat and the dock area for the accused and where the judges would have dished out their sentences.

Barristers Restaurant and Bar serves everything from main courses to sandwiches, desserts to afternoon tea, smoothies and cocktails, as well as their own Barristers lager and craft beer. It’s also dog-friendly, so ideal for calling in with Pooch in tow for some sustenance after a morning at National-Trust run Tatton Park (only three miles away).

We visited on a sunny, autumn day for traditional afternoon tea (£15.90) and, after a warm greeting, were seated where we could admire the grandeur of the place and where the dog could stretch out unhindered.

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The glass domed ceiling in the middle is the real eye-catcher, complemented by the ornate architraving and cornicing. The walls are host to framed portraits of famous past convicts and famous faces such as Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley and even Harry Potter’s Sirius Black.  

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Our Afternoon Tea consisted of a selection of finger sandwiches, macaroons, fruit scones, clotted cream, preserves, sponge, chocolate and fruit served on a delightful cake stand with tea and coffee in china cups and saucers. Very civilised! It was well-presented and generous, but we did just about manage to polish it all off (without any scraps for the dog…)

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If you’re feeling really hungry you could opt for delights ranging from seabass to sirloin to Scottish trout and starters such as a cured meat platter or vegetable crisps, and fragrant desserts such as orange and cinnamon pannacotta or homemade ice-cream. Suffice to say, we did rather regret not booking a three-course meal…. The Court House prides itself on its varied menu, fine food and drinks and aims to source all of its produce within 50 miles.

After eating, we were delighted to be given a tour of the court rooms by a staff member and the opportunity to learn about the building’s fascinating history.

Walk through some doors, framed by seven bowler hats, and along a corridor to Court One, the largest court, where more serious crimes were heard, and you’ll now see a beautiful, round ballroom ideal for large events and parties/weddings, complete with the original dock and trapdoors (now safely housed under carpets!) where prisoners were taken. The bowler hats surrounding the door represent the seven people who were hanged in the court house for their crimes and is a stark reminder of its past.

Despite lying empty for seven years, it’s in fabulous condition and you can almost feel its past, a true testament to the sympathetic refurbishment. Apparently Court One is where renowned mathematician and Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing was tried in 1952 so it does have an interesting and chequered past. 

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Court One also has a large ballroom and there’s a rooftop garden planned to open in the next few months offering a Champagne and cocktail bar plus 10 luxury bedrooms with an additional 40 at the rear of the building planned for 2018.

The Court House is a grand building, the staff are friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, the menu is varied, catering for all tastes, and it’s a real experience to visit. There’s plentiful parking and Tatton Park is less than a mile away so if you’re having a day out in Cheshire, put The Court House on your menu.

Christmas at The Court House

• Festive party evenings

Every Friday and Saturday throughout December.
Dine under the huge glass domed ceiling, indulge in a four-course dinner and enjoy live music in Barristers Restaurant and Bar before a DJ takes over and the dance floor opens up.
£55 per person

• Christmas Day

Three-course dinner with all the trimmings, entertainment and a visit from Father Christmas.
£85 per person
£55 children under 12,
£20 children under 5

• New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner

Enjoy fizz and canapes on arrival, followed by a six-course menu and live band followed by DJ.
£110

Useful information

The Courthouse Hotel
Toft Road,
Knutsford,
Cheshire WA16 0PB
Call 01565 743333
www.thecourthousecheshire.com

Tatton Park
Knutsford
Cheshire
WA16 6QN
Info line: 01625 374435
www.Tattonpark.org.uk

Opening hours vary depending on whether you are visiting the park, farm, gardens or mansion

The former Egerton family home, there are 1,000 acres of deer park with a Medieval Old Hall, mansion, gardens and working farm. There are up to 100 events held every year including a Christmas gift fair, Tatton Park 10k & half marathon, foodie festival, lantern parade and masked ball so there’s something for all the family and the extensive grounds are ideal for a long dog walk (dogs on a lead at all times).
Priced from £7 adult, £5 child (4-14), family (2 adults & up to 3 children)
£33 for a single attraction
Vehicles £6