In the 12th Century William Bottreaux gave the church of Knowstone to Harland Abbey,
the grant being confirmed by Richard I in 1190. Much of the building is 15th Century,
with later additions, the doorway is Norman. The church is dedicated to St Peter
and for many centuries this was the parish church of the Shapcott’s of Shapcott Barton.
The organ was given by the daughter of the late Prebendary John Matthew, and stands
in what used to be the Shapcott Chapel, now used as a vestry.
Below are some views of the interior of St Peter’s Parish Church, in Knowstone,
and the Baptismal Font. Here many family members belonging to the Shapcott’s of
Knowstone were baptised.
On the south wall of the Sanctuary are two memorials,
one to Rev. John Culme dated 1691 and
the other to Philip Shapcott :
This monument was erected by Elizabeth
the wife of Philip Shapcote esqr.
to the memory of her beloved Grandson Philip,
the son of Thomas Shapcote esqr.
And Elizabeth his wife who dyed the 30th day of Jan 1690.
He tasted life and lik'd it not but chose Mary's good part,
which he shall never lose.
Six months he liv'd, then went to heaven blest
To see the Father and with him rest.
In the vestry, standing against the wall
are some more Shapcott gravestones.
One is in Latin and refers to Phillip Shapcott who died in 1703, aged 82 years:
"Hic Reconditur qhod mortale est Philippi Shapcote de Shapcote.
Armigeri qui objit Aug 31 Anno 1703 Aetalis suo 82."
Another gravestone reads :
"Heere lyeth the
body of Peeter Shapcott
Sonne of Thomas Shapcott,
Gentleman who with Robert his brother naymed
was born the eight of June 1628
And was buryed the 16th September 1632."
On the North wall of the church there is a memorial to the Froude family. (See below).
On the roof of the North aisle one of the bosses shows a man who is sticking his
The church tower is 60 feet high and houses 6 bells in the bell chamber, which is
reached by a very steep and narrow spiral stairway.
The tower was built by the wife of Philip Shapcott Esq., one of Their Majesties Justices
of the Peace for the County of Devon. It was in situ by 1691.
The church is surrounded by the grave yard, and many more Knowstone Shapcotts were
most likely buried here.
From 1767 there were two Vicars by the name of Froude who served at Knowstone, a
father and a son. John Froude followed his father in 1804 and remained there for
49 years. He gained quite a reputation and he became known as the infamous Parson
Froude, and was said to be a disgrace to his profession. It is said that he drank,
hunted, shot, fished and kept the best pack of hounds in North Devon. He also lied
and cheated, and looked like the Devil himself when he entered the pulpit. He is
reputed to have paid a gang of thugs to carry out his wishes against parishioners
who offended him. One story related that he once tried to buy a prize bull from a
farmer who refused to sell it. The next morning the bull was found in its shed,
but minus his tail. Other farmers had their haystack burned down. Froude was called
an “unspeakable oaf” and when he died he left the parish in a heathen and lawless
state. He was buried in Knowstone churchyard. The author of “ Lorna Doone ” -R.D. Blackmore is said to havebased the character of Parson Chown on John Froude,
in his novel “Maid of Sker”.