The history of Knightshayes

View of Knightshayes house at dusk from the south gardens

Though a relatively new house by National Trust standards, Knightshayes still has a rich and varied history, influenced by the people who lived and worked here.

A rich and varied history

The house was built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and owner of a lace factory in Tiverton.
The foundation stone was laid in 1869, but it was not until 1873 that the elaborate interior designs were completed. William Burges, designer of Knightshayes, had a rocky relationship with the family and was fired half way through the project, leaving his imaginative vision incomplete.
Burges was replaced by another reputable designer, John Dibblee Crace, who turned out to be another ill-fated choice. Much of Crace's work was covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.

William Burges (1827-1881)

The house was designed by a renowned designer of the day, William Burges. Burges was well known for his eccentricity, which is reflected in the Victorian Gothic masterpiece he created.

The Heathcoat Amorys

Sir John Heathcoat and his family moved to Tiverton in 1816, after their lace making factory in Loughborough was destroyed. It was Sir John's grandson, John Heathcoat Amory, who commissioned the building of the house.

John Dibblee Crace (1838-1919)

After the dismissal of Burges in 1874, the family chose Crace, a less flamboyant designer, to complete the interiors of Knightshayes.

The walled garden

The kitchen garden was an essential part of Victorian country estate life, providing food, flowers and exotic fruit for the family. It was used until the 1960s and was particularly important during the two World Wars. Left in a poor condition, the garden was restored by us in 2001.

The formal garden

Originally designed by Edward Kemp (1817-1891), a reputable landscape gardener, the formal garden fell into decline by the 1920s. Rescued by Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Amory, after the Second World War, the garden became one of the finest in England, winning the highest horticultural awards, with more than 1,200 species unique to Knightshayes.

Joyce Wethered 

The last member of the family to live in the house, Joyce Wethered was both a respected gardener and a world championship golfer, winning the English ladies title four times.
A USAAF combat airforce plane dipping its wing over Knightshayes, Devon

When tragedy struck at Knightshayes

Few people know that Knightshayes became a rest home for American Airmen. It became a place to get away from the war and recuperate. However, one day tragedy struck in this tranquil place.