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East Knoyle Parish Church 001 East Knoyle Parish Church 002 East Knoyle Parish Church 003

"Saint Mary the Virgin"
Parish Church, East Knoyle, Wiltshire


The Church Register of the marriage of Viscount Exmouth to Susannah Frowde

Marriage Registry Entry
Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth
28 May 1783



The story of East Knoyle goes hack a long way. There are barrows at the north end of the parish and bronze tools have been found there. In 1995, excavations for the bypass unearthed a ploughed out bronze age burial mound with air iron age settlement adjoining it. Storage pits there had been reused not only for rubbish but also to hold a horse's skull wedged lightly, presumably for a religious ritual purpose.

A coin dated BC60-AD20 of the Durotriges tribe, whose centre was at Maiden Castle near Dorchester has been found, together with others of the Roman period, near the line of a Roman road by the site of a Romano-British cemetery.

King Arthur perhaps died in inter tribal warfare at Cadbury in AD 539, and the Celts certainly hung on upon the Penselwood Ridge a few miles away until AD 658, when Knoyle became a part of Saxon Wessex. The Saxon name "Cnugel" may be taken to mean "knuckle" and to refer to the outline of the hill above the church. There were then, as now, three distinct main areas of the village: the centre, Upton and Milton (Middle farm, not "mill"). There is a "Moot Field" with scanty remains of an earthwork, which was probably the meeting place of the administrative Saxon moot for the area. The parish western boundary with West Knoyle laid down in two Saxon charters of AD 998 and 956 is identical with that of today.

The church was standing before the Norman Conquest, at which time the Lord of the Manor was the Saxon lady Aileva. A succession of Normans held it until after much legal wrangling the manor passed to the see of Winchester in 1204 and the village ceased to be Knoyle Regis (King's Knoyle) and became Knoyle Episcopi or Bishop's Knoyle - a name still used on some official documents today. The Church Commissioners are now the Lords of the Manor, a position they retained even after the, bishop's lands were sold. These included the Bishop's park, now Park Coppice and Park Mead, on the edge of which one can trace the line of a "deer leap", designed to allow deer to enter the wood but not to get out again. There are still deer to be found in the wood, a reminder of the authority granted in 1263 by King Henry III as a gift to the Bishop Elect of Winchester to stock "his park at East Knoyle" with five bucks and fifteen does.

The chancel is the oldest part, described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "Norman in its bones". The blind arcades on the outside north wall are pre-Conquest in style and the blocked north doorway may be so too.

Early in the 13th Century, the chancel was extended and new side windows put in. The sedilia date from this period, when the floor was about two feet lower than it is now. Two chapels were added to make north and south transepts some years later. The porch was built about 1400 and the tower some fifty years afterwards.

In 1714 a small gallery to seat 53 people was built at the western end of the nave and "the singers" sat there. The church has undergone four restorations but manages to retain its special atmosphere. In 1829 the north transept was doubled to make the north aisle, with similar treatment to create the south aisle sixteen years later when the gallery was enlarged up to a line just east of the porch. At the same time the chancel arch was destroyed and replaced by what Pevsner has rightly described as "a terrible imitation Norman arch" - Wyatt and Brandon being the culprits. In 1876 Sir Arthur Blomfield removed the gallery, added the organ chamber and a reredos to the altar (now hidden behind a curtain) together with encaustic Minton tiles on the chancel floor. In the course of this work five tombstones were removed from the chancel floor under a faculty which laid down that they should be carefully preserved and at the completion of the work be replaced as near as circumstances would permit to their original position. These instructions were altered to provide small brass plates where the tombstones had been. while the stones were unceremoniously dumped near the eastern wall of Church Cottage next door. New pews were provided replacing what a local lady had described some years before as "Farmers' sleeping corners" . . . .

East Knoyle in 1845

"Old Knoyle 1845"
(from a colour wash by Mrs Jane Bouverie)
Only the church and Bell Cottage, on the right, now remain.

In 1891, the tower was in a very poor state and demolition was being considered. Fortunately the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings had been founded in 1877 by William Morris, with the Hon. Percy Wyndham of Clouds House as a committee member and Philip Webb as its first President. Webb was rebuilding Clouds after a disastrous fire and offered his services free. Thus, under Webb's direction, helped by Detmar Blow and with Frank Green from the village as foreman mason, a sound and sensitive restoration was achieved at a cost of 1400.

Twentieth century restoration has been restricted to conservation measures, but at considerable cost. Funds raised locally within a year in 1993/94 enabled the nave and chancel roofs to be retiled, retaining about 50% of the old material, with repairs to external rendering and some stone replacement and refacing to the tower.

There was a chapel within the Bishop of Winchester's manor in the 14th century though its site is uncertain. Chapel Farm, once the home of the Mervyn family, is a tantalising name. There is a field called Chapel Hill lying to the north which until recently had a roadside extension in its southeast corner. A chapel still existed in 1610, that could well have been a Saxon chapel of Shaftesbury Abbey, predating the parish church. Chapel farmhouse was already in existence by 1650, so the chapel remains may be lost in its foundations.

There is more certainty about the nonconformist congregations. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Samuel Clifford, the ejected minister, led an Independent congregation in the village, which also had some Baptists. By 1797, a meeting house for Independents was registered in a dwelling house and in 1827, Charles Jupe, a silk manufacturer in Mere, opened a cottage for worship and built a chapel alongside. In 1849 the chapel was bought by the Rector, who closed it. Another meeting house was soon registered and Mr Jupe built a new Congregational Chapel and schoolroom at the top of Shaftesbury Lane in 1854. The Church of England school, sited just uphill from the present war memorial, was demolished in 1871 as its accommodation did not meet the requirements of the new Education Act; to be replaced by a new building which served until the school's closure and amalgamation with St John's School at Hindon in 1985. As the years went by relations with the established church improved and by the time of the last Minister, Miss Edith Young, the old rivalry had been replaced by a strong spirit of friendship and co-operation. Sadly, when Miss Young retired in 1986, the chapel was closed and the buildings were converted into a residential complex. One of them still carries the name "Jupe's School" and members of the former United Reformed Church congregation are welcomed at St. Mary's, with one member currently serving by co-option on the Parochial Church Council. Finally, in 1843, the Ebenezer Chapel for Primitive Methodists was built at The Green, just above the Fox & Hounds; but this too closed in about 1970 and has become a private house.

Much of the village is a Conservation Area, with attractive farmhouses and cottages. particularly in Milton. The, view from Windmill Hill is superb on a fine day.

East Knoyle, Church interior.jpg (50350 bytes)

"Church interior 1815"
from a watercolour by Mrs Jane Bouverie

The Monument in memory to Sir Christopher Wren at East Knoyle, Wiltshire


Dr Christopher Wren, later Dean of Windsor and Registrar of the Order of the Garter, was appointed rector in 1623. At about that time he married the 21 year old daughter of the squire of nearby Fonthill Bishop, where he had held the living for the past three years.

The Birthplace of Sir Christopher Wren

"Haslams Shop"
Birthplace of Sir Christopher Wren

The rectory where they lived now forms the back part of an elegant Georgian house built in 1799. This was sold in the 1930s and is now known as Knoyle Place. Their son Christopher the first was born in 1631: being born, baptised and dying "within the hour". Christopher the second was born on 20 October 1632, not in the rectory - where there had been a fire - but in a cottage at the bottom of Wise Lane opposite the present post office. This building was later known as "Haslam's shop" until its demolition in 1878. The window from the room where he was born was incorporated into Knoyle House, only to be destroyed when it in turn was demolished forty years ago.

Young Christopher wren, later to become the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral and other famous buildings in London and elsewhere, was educated first by a tutor, the Rev William Shepherd, then at Westminster School under Dr Busby. He retained a property in the village until 1662.

A contemporary author, Sir Henry Wootton, describes the rector as "being well skilled in all branches of the mathematicks". Like, his famous son, he was trained in architecture, receiving a commission in 1634 from Charles I's queen (Henrietta Maria) to design a building costing 13,000. The plans at the back of the church dated c1630 are probably by him; while his plasterwork in the chancel (which originally covered the ceiling as well), is a unique conception in English church decoration.

It brought him plenty of trouble though. One day, during the English Civil War which began in 1642 with the Battle of Edgehill, it is said that Roundhead cavalry pursued a Royalist troop south from Warminster. After a brief skirmish in the village, the Royalists withdrew to the southwest by way of Fries Hayes.

Quite possibly it was on this occasion that Roundhead soldiers burst into the church and interrupted the doctor superintending his project in the chancel.

Thinking that he was occupied on idolatrous Papist works of art, they removed him by force but later allowed him to continue - having satisfied themselves that the work in hand depicted Christ's ascension. They did do a certain amount of damage. still visible today, but strangely left the kneeling figure on the north side, which seems to be a portrait of the doctor himself.

In 1646, with the Civil War at its height, the Parish Clerk (Richard Dew) prudently hid the church silver, some say within the old altar table in the ninth aisle. After ten years, he judged it safe to bring the silver out again. We still have one of the hidden pieces, a silver paten of 1637, presented by Augustus Mervyn.

As Mr Stephen Scammell has recorded: "In 1638 a curious episode occurred. The rector petitioned the king against one Thornhill "who under pretence of digging for saltpetre had so undermined his pigeon house that it fell down". His Majesty, surprisingly, referred the matter of the pigeon house to the Lords Commissioners of the Navy, but the reason later becomes apparent. The said Thornhill was indeed engaged in the saltpetre trade, and was smuggling it out through Dunkirk for the gunpowder manufacture of the King's enemies, and before the case could come to trial he fled abroad."

In 1647, Dr Wren was brought before the Faulstone Commission sitting at Longford Castle and accused of "heretical practices"; with his plasterer, Robert Brockway of Frome St Quintin being called to give evidence. The trial was clearly politically motivated, but Dr Wren was not without his supporters, even amongst his political opponents in the Commonwealth Party. A letter, signed by eminent members of a parliamentary committee and submitted to the Commission reads:

There are come to our sight several orders of Parliament and other public certificates, some o f them attested by our Committee, whereby it appears that Dr Christopher Wren had been much employed by Parliaments, and had suffered many violences and plunderings in the performance of those employments.

Likewise he had contributed very large sums of money in the service of the State, and had been a painful labourer in the work of the Ministry these thirty years.

All of which induces us to believe that he is a person far from meriting the doom of sequestration.

Wherefore we desire you to take his cause into your serious consideration and narrowly weigh the number and quality of the witnesses and informers; looking upon him with such favourable inclination as the due consideration of these premises do warrant. What tenderness you please to afford him shall be esteemed as an obligation upon

Your very assured friends,

John DANVERS (Who later signed Charles I's death warrant)
James HERBERT (Son of the Earl of Pembroke)
John EVELYN (The diarist)"

This support, however, was of no avail. Although the charge of heresy was not sustained; Dr Wren's existing fine was increased and he was supplanted in East Knoyle by William Clifford who by 1649 "preacheth constantly (twice) every Lord's Day". William was succeeded in 1655 by his son Samuel until being ejected at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

There is a tradition that, although removed from his appointment as rector, he was allowed back to the village and is said to have taught as a schoolmaster for five year. The final period of his life was spent peacefully at his son-in-law's rectory in Bletchington, where he died in 1656.



Let's start by going up the chancel step and turning round to look at Wren's depiction of the Ascension. According to Robert Brockway, it originally formed "a picture of the twelve Apostles, and Christ ascending in the Cloudes, and nothing seen but his feet and the lower part of his garment below the Cloudes". The Roundheads destroyed the heads of the Apostles, which were restored by Mrs Morgell, the Rector's wife, in about 1850.

On the capitals of the chancel arch Dr Wren had inscribed a number of cunning latin puzzles, destroyed in 1846 (details of this and the rest of the work are in the book just inside the porch).

Turning right to the north wall, with its kneeling figure, the text is that of Psalm 55 "Oh that I had the wings of a dove", with the bird above (Is it perhaps a reference to the inhabitants of his damaged dovecote ?) flanked by the Greek words APTEROS (Wingless) and APOTEROS (Yonder).

Moving along the wall towards the char, there is another oblong plaque containing texts within a border of roses and fruit. At the base is a finely ornamented letter Alpha - its partner Omega opposite was obliterated by a heavy memorial erected to the Seymour * family of Knoyle House.

At either side of the East Window is the story of Jacob's dream and Abraham's, sacrifice. The East window itself was remodelled in the 15th century. The present stained glass is a memorial to George Wyndham of Clouds House, designed by Ninian Comper. It was paid for by members of both Houses of Parliament. The dedication to this former Secretary for Ireland was chosen by Arthur Balfour: "To the memory of George Wyndham, Statesman, Orator, Man of Letters and Soldier". The Bishop of Salisbury dedicated the window on the ninth of May 1934, 21 years after Mr Wyndham,, death on a visit to Paris.

The brass chandelier, by a West Country maker, dates from about 1800.

Wren's plasterwork on the chancel ceiling which featured figures of cherubs and the like did not wear well and was replaced with the present wood in the restoration of 1876. At the same lime a new organ chamber was built, communicating with the choir through an opening enlarging the "low side window". once used to alert workers in the fields to the Sanctus bell indicating that the central part of the Mass was in progress.

The lectern was given as a memorial to the Still family, owners of Clouds before the Seymours' * and the Wyndhams. The coat of arms in the south aisle is that of the Bishops of Winchester who were lords of the manor for seven centuries.

Also in the aisle is a mutilated fragment of a "Trinity'" showing Christ (God the Son) held in the robes of God the Father. Discovered walled up in the aisle in 1876, it later disappeared - to resurface in the rectory garden many years later. After a spell in the Salisbury and Mere museums, the Mere Historical Society kindly agreed to present it back to the church in 1994. It cannot yet be sure, but it may well be a late mediaeval work deliberately smashed in the 16th century in the years immediately following the Reformation. It may then merely have been utilised as a conveniently sized stone or have been hidden in the wall to preserve it. The piscina nearby, used for washing the communion vessels, suggests that there was a side altar here.

Crossing over past the oak pulpit of 1726 to the north aisle, enter the former Still family chapel with its kingfisher crest in one of the windows. It later became associated with their successors at Clouds, the Wyndhams. Most recently, it was restored in memory of Canon Cross, Rector for 20 years from 1932.

Here once stood the Parish Chest, dating from 1616. Thieves broke in and looted it one stormy evening in May 1992.

Stepping back into the nave and looking west, past the font (c1600), the ringing chamber has a fine fan vaulted roof, supported by four carved heads. Traditionally, these used to represent the king (in this case probably Edward IV or V ), and the queen, leaving two spaces to be filled. In our case one may show the master mason in charge of the work, while the other is almost a cartoon figure with a broad grin and his tongue sticking out !

The tower is kept locked, but may be visited by arrangement. Above the ringing chamber is the clock room, which has a fireplace, suggesting its use as a priest's room. There are also two Norman capitals from the earliest part of the church.

There have been bells in the belfry since at least 1553 and the bellframe is marked with the church wards' initials and the date 1591.The original ring has all been recast. Four were cast by William Cockey of Frome, one by R. Wells of Aldbourne with the tenor cast by Mears (now the Whitechapel Foundry) in 1839.

The bells, which are rung regularly, are hung anticlockwise. New ringers are welcomed, with or without experience. Training is arranged within the band and through the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (See the notice in the porch).

The last few steps above the belfry lead to the roof, with fine views on a clear day.

Returning with care, leave the church by the porch and turn left. The south side of the chancel has traces of two former doors in the stonework. Note the two angels in Tudor dress at the apex of the east window and the pre-Norman blind arcades on the chancel north wall.

Spare a glance for the stone heads outside the north aisle. The knight in chain mail is partnered by a mediaeval lady who is clearly of strong character! In this area, much of the mediaeval rendering has recently been renewed, using the original techniques and material.

Female Gargoyle at the Parish Church East Knoyle Male Gargoyle at the Parish Church East Knoyle

Some of the gargoyles and carved heads are much worn, note a carving of Noah holding the dove is visible above the west door on the left as you look at it. The south side of the tower has two niches, one certainly for St Mary, the church's patron saint; while immediately below it is a tombstone with a cross, dating from about 1310 and thought to be that of an early rector.

Against Church Cottage stands a churchyard cross, predating the earliest
legible tombstone (that of Thomas Perman 1657) by several hundred years.

As you turn to depart, look up at the outside of the tower staircase at the smiling man with the nightcap who bids you farewell...

St Mary's Knoyle .jpg (36367 bytes)


NOTES: 1. Pre-Norman blind arcade. 2. Blocked North dour. 3. Blocked Louth door. 4. Site of low side window. 5. Organ 1876. 6. South transept 13thC. 7. South aisle 1815. 8. North transept 13thC. 9. North aisle 1829. 10. Line of gallery (removed 1876). 11. Font 1600 (?). 12. Porch c 1400. 13. Tower c 1450.



As far back as is recorded

1314 John de Malmsbury 1695 Charles Trippett
1316 Robert de Offynton 1707 John Shaw
1324 Walter de Blyth 1745 Samuel Rolleston
1336 Richard Martyn. Walter Pese 1746 Charles Wake
1372 William de Millebourne 1797 John S Ogle
1405 Stephen Morpath 1820 The Hon. Charles Wrottesley
1467 George Haregill, Brian Estres 1848 Thomas C Morgell
1523 Robert Morewent 1865 Robert N Milford
1570 John Marvyn 1912 William Neville
1608 Edmund Chandler 1932 Ernest Cross
1613 Ralph Barlowe 1952 Basil C D Palmer
1623 Christopher Wren 1976 Lionel W Daffurn (E.K., Hindon
1646 William Clifford         with Chicklade and Pertwood)
1655 Samuel Clifford 1985 Anthony T Johnson (Benefice of
1660 Enoch Gray         East Knoyle, Semley and Sedgehill)
1660 Antony Hawles 1993 Ronald B C Duffield, NSM
1662 Richard Hill 1996 Peter J Ridley



Benett-Stanford Lt Col J: "Notes for a History of East Knoyle", Wilts Archaeological Magazine, 1939.
Scammell S.E.: "East Knoyle, The History of a Wiltshire Village", revised 1996.
Miss Stratton: "Notes used in compiling the village scrapbooks" c 1950.
Victoria County History Vol XI, 1980.
Webb, Geoffrey: "Wren" (Great Lives Series).
Jackson-Stops, Gervase: "Detmar Blow". Wiltshire Houses Country life 3 July 1986.

Many residents, past and present. have provided information and other assistance. I am particularly grateful to Alison Borthwick, Dr John Chandler. Mr John Maine, Mr Stephen Scarnmell, Mr Clifford Sully and the late Mrs Jack Steedman.



The Rev. Peter Ridley, Priest-in-Charge of East Knoyle

The historic and beautiful village of East Knoyle is singularly fortunate in the number of people who take a serious interest in its past and who care deeply for its future. Foremost amongst these in recent years has been Anthony Claydon, to whose researches we owe this present booklet.

It is a privilege to become, only a few weeks before publication, the parish priest of East Knoyle (together with its neighbours, Sedgehill and Semley), so obviously a lively parish and community, and of a church which takes seriously the eternal realities of God our Creator. Of Jesus Christ in whom alone mankind may find salvation, and of the Holy Spirit who leads the Church into holiness and gives God's people the power to live joyfully for Him.

I know that you will find this booklet interesting. As you explore our ancient church, it is our prayer that you will know something of the peace of God, and we would ask that every memory of East Knoyle will lead you to pray for the life and work of the Christian Church here.

August 1996,                                                                       PETER RIDLEY

This Guide has been devised and published by Anthony Claydon, Church Cottage, East Knoyle, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6AE for East Knoyle Parochial Church Council 1996.


* Jane Seymour born 1509? and died Oct. 24, 1537, Hampton Court, London third wife of King Henry VIII of England and mother of King Edward VI. She succeeded - where Henry's previous wives had failed - in providing a legitimate male heir to the throne. Jane's father was Sir John Seymour.



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