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Knightshayes Court

Stables hold pride of place at entrance to estate
Sta­bles hold pride of place at entrance to estate

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.

Knight­shayes Court Pho­tos

Great West­ern Canal Pho­tos

© Copy­right 2013 by Costick and Rus­sell

By stephen

2 replies on “Knightshayes Court”

Hi Ann, The docents at the house seemed to me a bit eccen­tric:-) so we did­n’t men­tion any­thing to them or any­one else at the house. My father was not too pop­u­lar with the locals in the area since his remit was to essen­tial­ly cut down many of the exist­ing staff at the fac­to­ry, many of whom had been employed all their work­ing lives (and their par­ents before them!). So it was like­ly as well to lie low with my con­nec­tion.

For me it was quite nos­tal­gic and a lit­tle sad think­ing of my folks in this set­ting, and imag­in­ing them eat­ing their din­ner at the very for­mal din­ing table with these very for­mal peo­ple.

On the plus side though the Heath­coat-Amorys did build a nice golf course in the vil­lage which I enjoyed play­ing when I vis­it­ed my folks–all these years ago.

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