Shapcott  Barton (continued)



Article from the Western Morning News


dated Saturday 4th July 1998.


Property Of The Week


Shapcott Barton near Knowstone


Historic House Keeps Its Mystery



Shapcott Barton near Knowstone, on the edge of Exmoor, has several claims to a place in local history.  One of these is that it is the ancestral home of the Shapcott family, members of whom still visit from all over the world.


Another is that it has some very fine architectural details which warrant a Grade II* listing and are sometimes accessible to the public by appointment.


But it is another claim on visitors’ attention that may make even more of an impression on their imaginations.


Above the entrance porch there is a small chamber, with a blocked doorway leading from one of the bedrooms.


The only access nowadays is via the attic, and it was this route that a visiting child took one day in order to see what he had been told was a priest’s hole.


What he brought out surprised everyone.  Bones and a chain are, one might think, the stuff of fiction rather than real life.


A local teacher identified the bones as human and they remain in the house to this day, to be passed on to the next owner.  Their origin remains a mystery.


Shapcott, clearly, is a house with a history.  Occupied by the Shapcotts until 1770, when the last of the family died in Exeter, it stands on a site identified in the Domesday Book, nestling among fields south of the windswept heights of the moor.


During the Civil War, the Shapcotts gave their support to the King and were heavily fined by the Roundheads as a result.


The house was built in about 1600 to a three-room and cross passage plan, with three adjoining, gabled wings at the back to contain service rooms.  The family decorated their home in a style befitting their important status.  The entrance door has a moulded surround with very weathered ram’s horn stops, while another internal moulded door surround has fine foliated stops.


Several of the rooms themselves are equally impressive, with many panels divided by studded cover strips.  There are two dressed stone fireplaces upstairs and the early arrangement of first floor rooms is still evident, with partition walls forming later subdivisions.


However it is the plasterwork, the framed ceiling of the original “hall”, and its plank and muntin screen that make the biggest impression.  Between the cross passage and the hall is a partition cover with re-used 17th century panelling on which there are carved decorations, some in Renaissance style and some in geometric, lozenge form.


Inside, the hall ceiling is divided into 24 panels by superb, elaborate mouldings, dark with age.  In some of the panels the original plaster decoration is complete, in others it is partial and in yet others there is none at all, though the plaster is thought to be of a similar date.


A large, dressed stone fireplace stands on the rear wall, while a large handsome plank and muntin screen divides this room from the inner parlour.  In the latter room, the ceiling had to be replaced by the present owners, who used replacement beams sawn from elm on Lord Mantagu’s Beaulieu estate in Hampshire.


Upstairs, Shapcott Barton has five bedrooms and a bathroom, with dressed stone fireplaces in two of the rooms and a beautiful plaster frieze depicting winged horses in another.


Below the cross passage, where once there was a cider house and stables, a separate cottage was created in the 1950’s, providing three-bedroom accommodation which looks out on to its own area of garden.


The farmhouse has an unusually leafy outlook.  Rather than viewing its own yard and buildings, it looks down a long stretch of lawn to trees and fields in a shallow valley.


The working part of the farm lies a little way behind.


The house is set down a long, private, unmade lane, surrounded by 192 acres of ring-fenced arable and pasture land.


Despite its peaceful seclusion, it is only about three miles from the North Devon link road and half-an-hour from the mainline station at Tiverton Parkway ……..


















































Next - The Village of Knowstone



Main Shapcott Family Contents  |  Shapcotts During The English Civil War     


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