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Things to see and do inside Knightshayes house

The library at Knightshayes with bookshelves wrapping round the walls, gold wallpaper and sofas.
The Library at Knightshayes | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Knightshayes is a 19th-century house designed by architect William Burges and designed for former Tiverton MP, Sir John Heathcoat-Amory. There’s plenty of detail to enjoy whilst exploring the ground-floor of the house, from grotesques and gargoyles to the medieval Great Hall with its minstrels gallery. Look for the stone carvings of the seven deadly sins as well as a portrait of Rembrandt that may be by the Dutch master himself.

Burges's influence on Knightshayes

Knightshayes, with its elevated and robust Gothic façade, massive gargoyles, stylised leaves and an angel in the centre gable, shows Burges’s enthusiasm for 13th-century French architecture.

Eccentric designs

The interior is full of his neo-Gothic and often eccentric designs, including a vaulted hall, gilded ceilings, castellated chimneypieces and extravagantly carved corbels.

The ground floor of the house gives a flavour of a grand Victorian home, featuring impressive rooms for entertaining, relaxing, and indulging in pastimes such as billiards.

Knightshayes's Great Hall

Explore the medieval hall, complete with minstrels' gallery. Look up at the elaborate ceiling patterns and admire the chivalrous banners and shields. See the stone carvings, portraying aspects of medieval life, including the king, farmers and guards.

The Library

From the intricately decorated ceiling to shelves full of books, there’s plenty to see in the library. Sitting on bookshelves and hiding in the alcoves are some unusual Martinware ceramics, including some peculiar birds.

The Drawing Room

Admire the elaborate ceiling, now visible in all its colourful glory after being covered for nearly a century. This room features furniture by prominent Victorian designers, including an ornate cabinet housing a rare collection of local ceramics.

The library at Knightshayes with bookshelves wrapping round the walls, gold wallpaper and sofas.
The Library at Knightshayes Court | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Dining Room

Laid out as though for a family meal, the table and sideboard show items from our collection. Up above, the ceiling is inscribed with poetry by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet and lyricist.

Family treasures in the Morning Room

Richly decorated in red velvet and full of collection items, in the alcoves there are examples of Italian renaissance earthenware, which have featured in many international exhibitions over the years. The room is also home to the family’s beloved art collection.

A self-portrait by Rembrandt – or is it?

A portrait of the young Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) shown in the early years of his career was bought for Knightshayes in 1948 by Sir John and Lady Joyce Heathcoat-Amory and is on display in the house.

For many years, it’s been regarded as one of two copies of a self-portrait by Rembrandt, with the other copy in Kassel Museum in Germany and the original in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Uncovering hidden treasures

This little portrait caught art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor's eye and was put under the spotlight in BBC Four's TV programme, 'Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.'

In the series, Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri sought to uncover hidden treasures among painting collections using a combination of restoration, research and scientific analysis.

Investigating the painting

The painting underwent tests and analysis. This included dendrochronology (tree dating) on the wooden panel, specialist cleaning and infra-red and X-ray photography to determine aspects, such as the background technique and whether it was consistent with the way Rembrandt prepared his portraits.

Is the portrait by the Dutch master?

Despite some impressive research and analysis, through a journey that took Bendor Grosvenor to the Netherlands and Germany as well as specialist studios in the UK, the final word from the world’s leading Rembrandt expert, Ernst van de Wetering, was that the Knightshayes portrait is a copy.

When you visit take the opportunity to have a look and see what you think.

The exterior of the house at Knightshayes with the garden in front

Discover more at Knightshayes

Find out when Knightshayes is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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The history of Knightshayes 

Delve into over 200 years of history at Knightshayes. Discover the Heathcoat-Amory family history, how the house and garden was designed and developed, and Knightshayes’s sad connections with the Second World War.

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Visiting the garden at Knightshayes 

Step into the formal and woodland garden at Knightshayes in Tiverton, Devon, which is divided into eight separate areas plus a walled kitchen garden.

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Grab a bite to eat and drink in the Stables Café, or browse the range of goods in our shop. You'll find all the details here.

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Our work in the garden at Knightshayes 

The walled kitchen garden, home to a vast collection of crops, is a gardener’s delight. Find out about the work the team does to care for it, and the other areas of the garden.

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