British town drops 'narrow' pavements designed to stop romantic walks

London, Dec 4 (IANS) An English town where romance was banned because it upset an 18th century wealthy spinster is finally planning to welcome cupid onto its streets.

The pavements in the northern England market town of Knutsford were deliberately made narrow to stop romantic couples walking hand-in-hand.

People walking along the main streets are forced to walk in a single line, or risk the danger of stepping into the roadway.

For more than 220 years the town in the rural county of Cheshire has had some of the narrowest pavements in England — because of the whims of its prudish aristocrat resident, Lady Jane Stanley.

Lady Jane, daughter of the 11th Earl of Derby, paid for the streets of Knutsford to be paved in the late 18th century.

But there was one condition. Lady Jane had an aversion to seeing men and women walking arm-in-arm, and decreed that Knutsford’s pavements should be wide enough only for one person.

Those narrow pavements can still be seen today in King Street, the town’s main shopping and eating-out destination. But not for much longer.

The local administration authority, Cheshire East Council, has drawn up a scheme to upgrade the street with wider pavements, Xinhua reported.

The changes are intended to transform King Street into a more vibrant public space and improve access for people whose mobility is impaired, while retaining vehicle access at all times.

The leader of the council, Councillor Michael Jones said: “I am all in favour of retaining our fantastic heritage, but this is one of those occasions when we can improve on the legacy of the past.

“We want to create a space which will be enjoyed by Knutsford residents — whether they are walking arm-in-arm or not — while also attracting visitors and enabling businesses in the locality to thrive.”

Just what Lady Jane would have thought of the pavement-widening scheme is impossible to say, but she was a formidable woman and had a robust way of making her views known.

An 1859 history of the town records that at least one countryman, who got in her way as she walked the narrow pavements, was given firm tap with her gold-headed walking stick, to encourage him to move aside.

She usually avoided confrontations on the narrow pavements by travelling in her sedan chair, which is now exhibited in the town’s heritage centre.

Ironically, the narrow streets of Knutsford have been used as a backdrop during filming of several 19th century period romance dramas.

Meanwhile local residents are being asked for their views on the scheme, with many looking forward to the day when they can happily stroll arm-in-arm along their main street.

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