Located in Tiverton, not far from our temporary thatched-roof cottage, Knightshayes Court represents yet another National Trust location where we spent a happy few hours. The Trust acquired the estate in 1973 after the death of its owner Sir John Heathcoat-Amory. His forefather, John Heathcoat, inventor of an innovative lace production machine, originally chose the site for its view of his plant — the largest lace-manufacturing facility in the world at the end of the nineteenth century.
Architect William Burges designed the Victorian country house, with the foundation laid in 1869. Although completed in 1874, Burges did not make it to the finish line, and was fired half-way through the project. Nonetheless, the home exudes elegance with creative features and ornate ceilings. The estate’s crown jewel remains its spectacular setting with enormous gardens, both formal and informal.
We have a special connection with the house and area. My father was appointed Finance Director of Heathcoats, Ltd, the local Tiverton woolen mill company acquired from the Heathcoat-Amory family by Coats Patons in 1969. My parents lived in the area for a number of years while Dad streamlined the enterprise and brought it into line with the Coats’ way of doing business. During this time Mum and Dad were dinner guests of the Heathcoat-Amorys at Knightshayes. Throughout our own recent visit, I enjoyed the imaginary vision of my folks in this grand home with a properly-attired formal butler and attending staff waiting on them in the very formal dining room.
And it wasn’t just the Lord of this beautiful place with bigger-than-life presence and influence, either. The Lady of the manor was Joyce Wethered, widely regarded as one of the greatest British women golfers ever to have swung a club, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975.
The Tiverton area also hosts the Great Western Canal, where horses on the river’s edge historically pulled long barges full of goods. Today, little barges remain, still tugged by work horses, and there is also a complete tea shop barge full of delighted tourists on the canal in Tiverton. Definitely worth a stop.
© Copyright 2013 by Costick and Russell