This tiny village nestling in the West Wiltshire Downs is a deeply rural area with agriculture, pastoral and mixed, the main industry.
A mysterious event took place here on 5th January 1718. Christopher Fricker took the parish registers to his house in the village, the reason for which is not known. The following night his house was broken into and the registers burnt. The culprits were never caught so the reason for this terrible act of vandalism has never been known. Local legend handed down through the generations says the registers were destroyed to remove all traces of a compromising record/s which would cause embarrassment to someone in the parish.
Interestingly, when the Rector began the new Baptism Register, he first entered the names and birth dates of all the children of the late William Willoughby who were born between 1691 and 1711; four Yeomen of the parish added their signatures to confirm the paternity of the children.
The name of the parish has evolved through the ages from Cnugel in AD950, to Chenvel, Childe Knoel (1200), Cnoel Hodierna, Knoel, Cnoyle Oderne, Knahill (1675), Knoyle Parva and Little Knoyle to today's West Knoyle.
The Parish Church
St Mary the Virgin is 12th century, turreted and ornamented with pinnacles. The 5 bells are dated 1605, 1661, 1665, 1671 and 1887 (4 are unsafe), and there are several tudor-arched doors and windows. Curiously, the church displays a male exhibitionist gargoyle in the feet-to-ears position on the south-east corner of the tower.
Schooling took place from 1859 in the harness room of an old stable. A single room school was built in 1874 at a cost of £340 with a contribution from the then-Prince of Wales. The school closed in 1927; since then the children of West Knoyle have been educated in nearby Mere. School Entertainment 1891 & 1898
Newspapers are a treasure trove of information for family history researchers and social historians alike. The tiny parish of West Knoyle receives little 'real news' coverage, but you may find your ancestors mentioned in the court columns as perpetrator or victim of crime. Alcohol related offences and poaching were the most common misdemeanours brought before the petty sessions in the 19th century, all reported with monotonous regularity.
Primarily, articles shown are those that contain the names of parishioners to assist family history researchers however, these should not be presumed to be all that appear in the newspapers in the given years or that there are no articles in the years omitted.
The Willoughby Family
The Old Manor House in West Knoyle was built c1530 by Christopher Willoughby, the illegitimate son of Sir William Willoughby of Turner's Piddle in Dorset. The descendants of this wealthy and influential Royalist family remained prominent in the village for some 200 years during which time they were generous benefactors of the Church. The Willoughby's of West Knoyle
In a woody coppice in West Knoyle is a well, more akin to a foul smelling hole in the ground, known locally as Puckwell. The word Puck, meaning hobgoblin, is derived from the middle English "pouke" and old English "puca". Hobgoblins were believed to be well-dwelling spirits. Early church practice was to bless the well and mingle the Pagan cult with a suitable Saint but at some wells this never happened and, allegedly, didn't at the one in West Knoyle so Puckwell remains a goblin's well - one which has never been Christianised.
Contributing to Photo Galleries etc
The information and images 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 West Knoyle, picture postcards or other information relating to the village, please email us. Contributions really will be appreciated. Thankyou.
A census was not taken in 1941
1801-184 1811-210 1821-208 1831-206 1841-206 1851-180 1861-187 1871-202 1881-199 1891-158
1901-160 1911-137 1921-123 1931-117 1941-n/k 1951-131 1961-131 1971-110 1981-138 1991-139 2001-159
West Knoyle's Neighbours
East Knoyle, Sedgehill, Kingston Deverill, Monkton Deverill and Mere are all within 3 miles. The towns of Gillingham and Shaftesbury (both in Dorset) are 5 miles distant.
Civil Registration District
July 1837 to January 1978 Mere Registration District, then Salisbury
Parish Registers held at WSHC
Baptisms 1718-1989 (BT's 1608-1717)
Burials 1718-1991 (BT's 1607-1717)
There are no entries in the Marriage Register between 20 April 1745 & 24 June 1754
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
During World War 2, there were visible reminders of the war all around - soldiers billeted in neighbouring villages and endless military convoys on the road from East Knoyle to Shaftesbury. Three men of the parish lost their lives - Clifford Charles Fulcher, David Warburton and Robert Pugsley.
WW1 and WW2
At the time of the First World War, the population of West Knoyle was about 130 and 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 Ansty 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.
The Memorial Plaque in St Mary the Virgin church commemorates two men of the parish who lost their lives in the WW1:
Another two casualties with strong connections to West Knoyle have been identified:
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