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The Parish Church

The church of St Mary the Virgin, a Grade 1 listed building, has been at the heart of village life for over a thousand years.  The embattled tower at the west end of the church contains 6 bells; the chancel is the oldest part of the church; on the outside north wall there is pre-Norman blind arcading; the C15th east window has Tudor angels above it.  A Saxon Cross dating from between C9th and C11th stands at the west end of the churchyard.  On the road to Holloway, just along from St Mary's, is the churchyard extension dating from 1899. 


Up to 25 April 1847 the neighbouring parish of Hindon could only perform baptisms and burials, so their marriages took place in East Knoyle. Note in Register at Number 96, 25 Apr 1847 reads: "Up to ys (sic) date Hindon marriages cd be solemnized only in East Knoyle church. This privilege, together with ye ** charge of Hindon parish was relinquished voluntarily by Rector Crosbie Morgell who was inducted April 1848."


St Mary's is in the Benefice of St. Bartholomew together with the neighbouring parishes of East Knoyle, Sedgehill, Donhead St Andrew and Donhead St Mary with Charlton.  The Rector is the Revd Richard Warhurst.  St Mary's is normally open to visitors during daylight hours.


Much is recorded about the non-conformist movements in East Knoyle. Over the past 400 years there have been chapels and meetings houses for Independents, Baptists, Primitive Methodists, Congregationalists and United Reformists. The Independent Chapel still stands in the centre of the village and the Primitive Methodist Chapel at The Green is now a private house.    

The School

A non-conformist school existed in East Knoyle as early as 1683.  The National school was built close to the church in 1872/3.  The school log book (held at WSHC) makes interesting reading; it details the weather, illnesses suffered by the children, attendance levels, absences, disciplinary action,  visits by the Rector, etc.  Are your ancestors mentioned in the pages from the Log Book below?  Find when your ancestors started school, and their birth date, from the Admissions Registers below. 










World War I

At the time of the First World War, the population of East Knoyle was about 860; events far away probably had little effect on the practicalities of the day to day lives of the parishioners.  Apart from the absence of their menfolk in the village, there would have been no obvious signs to the people of East Knoyle that the country was at war.  But it was not only sons, husbands and fathers who had gone, most of their horses had gone too - from lightweight hunters to heavy cart horses, all required for the war effort leaving the farms bereft of their best working animals.  Some had been compulsorily purchased in the early months of the war by Lt George Armstrong who lived at Broadoak Farm Semley and was the Government's Agent tasked with procuring horses in the district.


Soon after the war had finished East Knoyle turned its attention to fundraising to finance a memorial in honour of the men who did not return. The memorial cross, a slender design rising 16ft from a plinth, was erected at Knoyle House Corner at the end of September 1920.  On the front of the square base is the inscription:


“To the Glory of God and in memory of the men of this parish who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1918”  


On one side panel are the words “Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” and the opposite panel records the names of the men commemorated.  War Memorial Unveiling 1920 

Another seven casualties have been identified whose names do not appear on the War Memorial or the Memorial Plaque in St Mary's church.  All were born in East Knoyle.

To commemorate the centenary of the start of WW1, East Knoyle, Sedgehill & Semley Branch of the Royal British Legion, in conjunction with the East Knoyle Newsletter, published a special newsletter to illustrate the village as it was in the war years and the contribution made by the men of East Knoyle.  Read the newsletter here 

World War 2

During World War II, there were visible reminders of the war everywhere - crowded troop trains at Semley Station, the 3rd Battalion Wiltshire Home Guard had their headquarters in Knoyle House in the centre of the village, soldiers were billeted all around the parish, endless military convoys on the road to Shaftesbury.  Khaki was the dominant colour in St Mary's church on Sundays and in the Seymour Arms and Fox & Hounds in the evenings.

Newspaper Articles

Newspapers are a treasure trove of information for family history researchers and social historians; many articles give us a look back in time at how our ancestors spent their high days and holidays.  You may find your ancestors mentioned in the court columns either as the perpetrator or victim of crime.   Primarily, articles shown are those that contain names of parishioners to assist family history researchers.  These articles should not be presumed to be all that appear in the newspapers in the given years, or that there are no articles in any of the years omitted.

In Days Gone By

The Village Today

Beneath the rugged elm and yew tree shade

Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap

Each in their narrow cell forever laid

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep

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Contributing to Photo Galleries etc

The images and information on this page are of great interest to researchers in the UK and worldwide who are tracing their family history.  If you would like to share photographs of your ancestors who were born or married in East Knoyle, old picture postcards, or other information relating to the village, please email us.  Your contribution really will be appreciated.  Thankyou.

Wiltshire's Most Famous Son

Sir Christopher Wren, the great mathematician and architect, was born in a house on the corner of Wise Lane on 10th November 1632.  Christopher's father was Rector of East Knoyle from 1623-1646.  A fire at the Rectory meant that Rector Wren and his wife had to temporarily move to the house in Wise Lane - it was while they were there that their son was born.  The house was demolished in the late 1800's.   The young Christopher spent his early years in the parish; by the age of 10 he was boarding at Westminster School in London.    Rector Wren left a unique and lasting legacy to the village by designing beautiful alabaster murals for the church - they still illuminate the chancel today. 

Annual Ploughing Matches

The first match was held in 1857; in 1869 forty-two ploughs entered the competitions.   Matches were extremely competitive and also served as social gatherings for farmers, ploughmen and the public.   The lists of prizewinners may help family history researchers to 'marry up' their ancestors to specific farms.   

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East Knoyle

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Slate Clubs

With their heyday's from about the mid 1880's through to the mid-late 1940's, Slate Clubs were a 'social service' of their day, established to assist working men who fell on hard times through sickness, unemployment, etc.  The headquarters of the Slate Club was almost always in a public house and those who joined paid a copper or two each week into a fund.  Most Slate Clubs held an annual fete, always an eagerly anticipated event, which helped to supplement the Club's funds.  At Christmas, monies not paid out or loaned were divided equally among members.  Although Slate Clubs no longer exist, they left a lasting legacy with phrases like "put on the slate" (a debt owed) and "the slate wiped clean" (a debt paid).  

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Family & parish history : East Knoyle : Sir Christopher Wren
Friendly Societies

Friendly Societies played an important part in our ancestors' lives.  Members paid a regular fee and attended meetings; if they became sick, emotional support would be given along with an allowance to help them meet their financial obligations.  The Society might have a doctor who could be freely consulted; when a member died, funeral expenses were paid and often there would be some money left over for the widow.  As with the Slate Club, an annual fete was held to boost funds - parishioners turned out in large numbers to watch members parade the village, often accompanied by the local band. 



Coroners' inquests were held within 48 hours of a sudden, unnatural or unexplained death.  In rural locations they were conducted at the alehouse, parish workhouse or in the building where the death occurred.  The jury could consist of between 12 and 24 people, but this reduced to between 7 and 12 after 1926.  Many historical Coroners’ Reports were destroyed under 1958 Public Records Act; newspaper articles are often the only source of an inquest having been carried out.

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During the 19th century, beer and cider were consumed in large quantities by the working classes, especially at harvest time.  Considering their harsh everyday lives, backbreaking work and appalling living conditions, it is not surprising that men escaped to the ale houses.  The commonest entries in the records of the Quarter Sessions and Magistrates Courts from 1800-1900 were alcohol related offences - excessive drinking, fighting, stealing and gaming - a huge problem in rural communities across the country.     


* A medieval building stands at the roadside opposite the village hall

* One third of the residents of East Knoyle were lost to the Great Plague in 1665

* John Cross was transported in 1787 for sheep stealing; he eventually became a significant landowner in Australia

* The Parish Chest dating from 1616 was stolen by thieves in 1992

* Isaac Burbidge married Hannah Norris 14 December 1818 in East Knoyle; they produced 17 children, all baptised at St. Mary's 

The Wyndhams and Clouds House  

During the 19th and early 20th centuries Clouds House, a very grand mansion house on the road from the village to The Green, was the home of the influential Wyndham family.  Brothers William and Wadham Wyndham led the Militia against the agricultural labourers who rioted at Tisbury during the Swing Riots in 1830.   Incredibly, the two Wyndham brothers sat on the jury at the trial of the rioters in Salisbury. (For more on the riots, go to the Tisbury parish page).


The Wyndham family were the biggest employers of agricultural workers in East Knoyle; records detail wages paid in 1890: Experienced Farm Hand - 11 shillings a week, Head Carter 13 shillings a week, Shepherd 14 shillings a week, Haymakers 3 shillings for a 12 hour day, Harvesters 4 shillings with some beer for a 13 hour day. 


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The Seymours and Knoyle House

Jane Seymour, the last of East Knoyle Seymour's, inherited Knoyle House in 1873.  As Jane's  health was poor, the house was let by her trustees.  The Dowager Lady Pembroke was the longest tenant of 30 odd years; in 1943 she gave the top floor of the House to the Childrens' Society for homeless babies and toddlers - the house was temporarily known as Beatrix House.  In the same year, Jane Seymour died.  

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In 1946, Knoyle House and the estate was sold.  The auctioneer's details contain the names of people renting cottages or land at the time. The grand old house was demolished in 1954.  

Sale Particulars

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East Knoyle's Neighbours

West Knoyle, Hindon, Sedgehill and Semley are all within 2 miles of East Knoyle.  The nearest towns are Mere (Wiltshire) 5 miles, Gillingham and Shaftesbury (both in Dorset) 6 miles.


Red House Farm

If anyone reading this is directly descended from the Bishop family who lived at Red House Farm East Knoyle around 1915-18, please contact us - something has come into our possession that should be returned to the family.  Thank you.


Population Figures

A census was not taken in 1941

1801 - 853   1811 - 905   1821 - 954   1831 - 1028   1841 - 1038   1851 - 1110   1861 - 1034   1871 - 1005   1881 - 877   1891 - 956   

1901 - 814   1911 - 853   1921 - 729   1931 -   600   1951 -    821   1961 -  750    1971 -  700    1981 -   659   1991 - 645    2001 - 641   2011 - 681


Misc Information

Over 500 historical wills for East Knoyle are held by Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre - some can be downloaded from their website for a small fee.

The Windmill & The Green

On the road from the village to The Green is a beautifully preserved windmill without its vanes -  they were lost in a fire in the early 1900’s.  Known as Windmill Hill, there are spectacular panoramic views across the Blackmore Vale in Dorset.  The Fox & Hounds public house is at the summit.  Knoyle Feast at Windmill Hill 1866-1926

The Workhouse

In 1811, a workhouse was built on land on the Hindon Road out of the village (now Park Farm).  In 1824, Thomas Hunt from Tisbury was appointed as governor, his wife Sarah was governess. They remained in post until the workhouse closed in 1834 and were given an extra soverign as a gift.  Thereafter locals went to Mere Union workhouse.  

Removal & Settlement Orders
Memorial Inscriptions/Burials 1932-1936

A few memorial inscriptions are available; some are scant, some have good detail.  Mostly for the 1800's, names include Perry, Gray, Burton, Snook, Dyer, Maidment, Ford, Stevens, Rickets, Chisman.  Two pages from the Burial Register still in use at the church covering  15th June 1932 - 2nd Nov 1936 include the following surnames:  Gray, Snook, Wheadon, Garnett, Hull, Hanna, Smith, Read and Fletcher.  Email us for details.


Civil Registration District

July 1837 - January 1978 Mere Registration District, thereafter Salisbury


Registers held at WSHC

Baptisms        1538-2004

Marriages       1538-1990

Burials            1538-1907


East Knoyle is one of only half a dozen parishes in Wiltshire that has registers dating back to 1538 for baptisms, marriages and burials.


Baptisms                     1538-1550    1551-1599    1600-1650    1651-1699    1700-1750    1751-1799    1800-1850    1851-1874

Marriages                    1538-1599    1600-1699    1700-1799    1800-1837    1837-1908

Burials                         1538-1599    1600-1699    1700-1799    1800-1837


Census                         1841   1851    1861    1871    1881    1891    1901    1911


Voters Lists                 1874    1878    1880    1900    1912    1915

Electoral Registers     1918    1925    1953    1954    1960


Kelly's Directories      1848    1855    1867    1875    1880    1898    1915    1923    1931    1939


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