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Wiltshire Community History

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This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1810

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.

Map of the Civil Parish of Knook:

Map of the Civil Parish of Knook

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern parish boundary has been superimposed.

Thumbnail History:

The parish of Knook is a small village in west Wiltshire that lies along the Wylye Valley between Heytesbury and Upton Lovell. Warminster is the nearest town, five miles north-west of Knook. The river Wylye runs along the western edge of the village. Many of the villages that line this section of the river are similar in shape. The communities are clustered close to the river, while the land within the parish boundary stretches up into the downs. Knook, like its neighbours, is a long, thin shape, rising over Knook Down. The soil is a mixture of subsoil, chalk and stone.

The name Knook is probably a Celtic name, identical with the modern Welsh cnwc, meaning 'lump or hillock'. It may refer to the tumulus that lies on the parish boundary south of the church.

It is likely that a settlement existed at Knook near the church by at least the 10th century. The fabric of the church contains decorative elements of the late 10th - early 11th centuries that possibly come from an earlier building. There were two British villages close to the eastern parish border and also a castle. All three sites are now in Upton Lovell parish.

Old Ditch is an earthwork, part of which runs for mile along the eastern boundary. The ditch measures a total of eleven miles and stretches from Upton Scudamore to Orcheston. Among the five barrows that are spread the length of the parish is the first one to be opened by William Cunnington.

The Domesday Book records two manors at Knook, held by the Lords of Wardour and Heytesbury. By 1377 only one manor is recorded, in the possession of Sir John Lovel. It remained in this family until 1794 when Knook was purchased by Edward, Duke of Somerset. He in turn sold it to Lord Heytesbury in 1828; the manor stayed with this family until the Second World War.

The parish church of St. Margaret dates from the late 11th century, if not before. Its most striking feature is the tympanum above the blocked up exterior doorway on the south wall. The church was rebuilt in 1740, when the churchwardens presented the chancel and nave as 'out of repair'. It was later restored in 1875 by William Butterfield. There has never been a Non-conformist chapel at Knook. However, in 1818 some Independents applied for a licence to hold services in a house.

Apart from the church, there are just five listed buildings in Knook. The earliest is the Manor House, which dates from the 16th century. This Grade I listed Tudor manor house was not always the fine building that is there today. At the end of the 19th century it was divided into four tenements. In 1892 there was a fire and a tenant named Miles lost most of his belongings. W.H. Hudson, who published 'A Shepherd's Life' in 1910, found it to be very dilapidated. He described it as 'desolate, dirty and neglected, with cracks in the walls which threatened ruin, standing in a wilderness of weeds, tenanted by a poor working man whose wages are twelve shillings a week, and his wife and eight small children'. The rent, he said, was eighteen pence a week, probably the lowest-rented manor house in England. In 192* it was bought and sensitively restored by the Misses Crichton-Maitland.

There are two farms in the village, named East and West. East Farm is the oldest, dating from the 17th century. The farmhouse was rebuilt in the early 19th century. West Farm also dates from the 19th century. In 2005 two of this farm's buildings, the granary and the dairy house, were both converted into modern homes. The two remaining listed buildings are neighbouring cottages; one dates from the 18th century, the other the mid-19th century.

The main sources of employment for the residents of Knook prior to the Second World Wa,r were agriculture and the woollen industry. As early as 1379, the Poll Tax collector's returns show that the cloth industry was well established in the Wylye valley. On a four mile stretch of the river between Heytesbury and Codford, nine fullers were recorded, including one at Knook. This high proportion of fullers to the adult population shows that there was a well established customer base for this industry.

By the middle of the 19th century employment was divided between the two farms in the village and a woollen factory. The 1851 census shows just 48 households in Knook. West Farm covered 600 acres and employed 16 labourers. East Farm was slightly larger at 800 acres and employed 25 labourers. Many people worked as 'woollen factory operatives'. They were probably employed at the factory in neighbouring Upton Lovell, which was owned by the Everett family, who were clothiers at Heytesbury.

By 1901 there were just 21 households in the village. All the occupations were attached to agriculture, except one man who was a bricklayer. Knook was too small a community to be able to support a shop, baker or post office. The villagers would have walked to either Upton Lovell or Heytesbury for their provisions. During the First World War a farmer's daughter ran a tobacconist; her customers would have mostly come from the recently built army camp. A newsagent was advertising in the Kelly's trade directory for 1927 and 1931.

At the time of the Domesday survey Knook was divided into two holdings. The population was approximately 60-100 people. The first official figure is 194 people in 1801. The population reached its peak of 282 in 1831 and fell gradually to 89 people in 1901. In 1861 the decrease was attributed to the migration of several families to other parishes and the entrance of young men into the army. In 1871 the reason given was demolition of houses and the migration of young persons, chiefly as domestic servants, to the towns.

The 20th century saw a five-fold increase in population, due to the building of an army camp. Between 1931 and 1951 the figure rose from 95 to 544. During the 1960s it fell again to 68. The most recent figure was 59 people in 2001. Village life was changed dramatically for this small community by war. The first camp, built in 1915, contained huts built on both sides of the main road between Heytesbury and Knook. It covered 50 acres and was laid out as an artillery camp. In 1940 a much larger camp was built on the North-East side of the main road. Over 100 men were employed to build it. At some point during the War the Australian Reserve Brigade was stationed here.

The residents of Knook would have looked to a neighbouring village to provide their social life. Their own village was too small to even support a pub, so they probably went to Heytesbury for their leisure activities. Here there were two public houses, a reading room and various clubs to join.

In 1988 the Warminster Bypass opened. Part of this passed the village of Heytesbury, but it rejoined the old road before reaching Knook. There are no houses close to the main road, but the heavy flow of traffic makes its presence felt. Perhaps one day the bypass will reach this beautiful part of the Wylye Valley.

CouncilWiltshire Council
Web Sitewww.wiltshire.gov.uk
Parish CouncilHeytesbury Imber & Knook Parish Council
Parish Web Sitewww.heytesburyparish.co.uk
Parish Email 

Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

Schools: Information on both current and closed schools.

Population 1801 - 2011

Photographs: If images have been added for this community they are available here.: We hold a collection of over 50,000 photographs of places in Wiltshire in the County Local Studies Library. These may be viewed at this library and copies of out of copyright material may be purchased. We can search for a picture of a building or event if you e-mail us with details.

Historical Sources: A select list of books and articles is listed in 'Printed material'. You may go directly to the actual text from some of these.

Printed Material: This is a select book-list for the community but in the case of a town there may be hundreds more books, pamphlets and journal articles.

The full text of some items is available to view on this site.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire (opens in new window) is a partnership between local authorities and the Institute of Historical Research at London University. The History of Wiltshire is now the largest county history in the country and is still growing. The volumes are divided between general and topographical with Volumes One to Five covering subjects such as prehistory, ecclesiastical, economic and political history. The Volumes from Six onwards are topographical and will ultimately provide a comprehensive and systematic history of every single town and parish in the county.

(opens in new window) Explore Wiltshire's Past web site

Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.


Maps: listed are maps on which you can find this community. All maps are Ordnance Survey maps.


Archaeological Sites: A Sites and Monuments Record (opens new window) is maintained by the County Archaeology Service and covers some 20,000 sites. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was formed in 1853 and have been publishing an annual journal since 1854. The journal contains both substantial articles and shorter notes on archaeological excavations, finds, museum objects, local history, genealogy and natural history.

Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Knook

Folk Biographies from Knook

Folk Plays from Knook

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, listed as being of architectural or historic importance is 8. There is one Grade I building, the Manor House, and one Grade II* building, the Church of St. Margaret.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

Local Authors: There could be an author who was born or has lived in this community.

Literary Associations: Some communities have featured in novels or may have been the main setting for a book.

Registration Districts: If you want to obtain a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you can contact the local registrar.


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