St Margaret, Knook

The church of St. Margaret dates from the 11th century, if not before. The building was restored in the 1870s but still retains features that are clearly Norman, including parts of the chancel.

The most important feature at St Margaret's is the blocked up doorway in the south wall. Protected by both a 19th century framework and a pointed arch, is a carved tympanum. For many years this was believed to be Norman, but archaeologists have since given it an earlier date. The key features are the capitals supporting the round arch and the sculptured foliage and animals within the tympanum, all of which are believed to date from the early 11th century. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner however, disagreed with this, suggesting that the experts continue to have divided opinions on this subject.

Inside the church there are fragments of the earlier building. The chancel has a wooden arch-braced beam supported by 11th century carved corbels. Behind the altar is a limestone reredos that has Saxon interlaced carving.

By 1740 the church needed to be rebuilt. The churchwardens' presentment stated that both the chancel and the nave were 'out of repair'. The next documentary evidence relates to 1824 when Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited this church. He drew a simple plan of the church and measured it. The nave was 30' 10” long by 17' 6” wide. The chancel was 16' long by 13' 2” wide. His only comment was 'The present chapel is a small neat building erected about 1623, and presents nothing worthy of remark in its architecture'. We now know that this was incorrect.

The west wall has a 13th century window beneath two 19th century windows. Above the two- storey north porch is a date stone inscribed 1623; in the 1980s there was also a partly illegible name of a churchwarden visible. The remainder of the exterior dates from the 1870s.

By 1874 major restoration was required. The faculty, dated 4th July 1875, declared the church 'to be in a state of general decay' and that it was 'disfigured by an unsightly western gallery'. The masonry was to be repaired and restored where necessary, the same with the walls. The roof was repaired and re-slated, and a vestry was built on the north side of the chancel. The total cost was £750, of which £600 was given by Lord Heytesbury and the rest from other donations. The existing church was able to seat 75 people (including the gallery); after restoration this number was reduced to 67. The population of Knook in 1871 was 176 people, but the faculty stated that seating for 67 people was ample, suggesting that less than 40% of the population were regular church goers.

The fittings inside the church, namely the font, pulpit, pews and communion rail were all added in the 1870s. The stained glass in the east window is in memory of Elizabeth, Lady Heytesbury, who died in 1874. There is one monument, situated at the west end; a black and white tablet in memory of Brouncher Thring, buried 1787, and his family.

The parish of Knook was united with Heytesbury and Tytherington in 1885. The villages of Sutton Veny and Norton Bavant were added in 1976. In the late 1990s the Upper Wylye Valley Team was created. This team supports ten churches, namely Heytesbury, Tytherington, Knook, Boyton, Sherrington, Codford St Peter, Codford St Mary, Upton Lovell, Norton Bavant and Sutton Veny.

The parish registers for Knook dating from 1687, apart from those currently in use at the church, are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

Credit Wiltshire Council

Address and Contact Information:

Church of St Margaret
BA12 0JG

Churchwarden: Robert Pottow 01985 850285

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