Shapcott Barton in Knowstone

The manor house and farm of Shapcott Barton are situated two miles east of the village of Knowstone.     

This was the family home of the original Shapcote family until the early 1700’s, when it was sold to the Courtenay family

and the Shapcote family then moved to Exeter. Since then the house and farm has changed hands several times.

A Description of Shapcott Manor By The Present Owners – Mr & Mrs Allen

Shapcott Barton is an ancient farmstead and manor house which has been awarded a Grade II* listing by the Department of the Environment

(Grade II* - signifies a particularly important building of more than one special interest).

The manor itself has an unusually leafy outlook. Rather than viewing its own yard and buildings, it looks down a long stretch of lawn to trees in the shallow valley, facing south. W.G Hoskins, in his book “Devon”, says “Shapcott Barton is mainly Elizabethan, but Medieval in parts”.

It is largely a single phase house with later restorations and slight modifications. It is a fine roughly coursed stone house under a slate roof, which is gable ended to the right and half hipped to the left. The house has three adjoining gable wings at the back to contain service rooms.

The entrance door, within the front porch, has a moulded surround with very weathered ram’s horn stops.  Above the entrance porch is a small chamber (a priest hole) in which human remains were found. Their origin remains a mystery.

Several of the doors in the house are very impressive with fine foliated stops, some with many panels divided by studded cover strips.

Inside, the hall ceiling is divided into 24 panels by superb, elaborate plaster mouldings depicting moths around a flame.

A large dressed stone fireplace with bread oven, stands on the rear wall and a large, handsome plank and muntin screen divides this room from the inner parlour.

The dining room has another wonderful dressed stone fireplace with double herringbone back.

The front windows, which face south are unusually large and let in much light - unusual in a house of this age. The shutters remain on the windows of the parlour, and the old dias seat follows the wall beneath the window in the hall room..

Upstairs Shapcott Barton has eight bedrooms, some with dressed stone fireplaces, and two bathrooms. There is a beautiful plaster frieze depicting winged horses in one of the upstairs rooms.  

Since the end of 1998 all the timbers in the house have been cleaned  using soft  brush  attachments on industrial  vacuum  cleaners, to preserve the delicate plaster work in the old dining hall. 80 bags of rubbish were removed from between the joists above the dining hall ceiling alone.  

Wood treatments, repairs, re-plastering in the West wing, redecoration, much re-plumbing and rewiring and general conservation work has been undertaken to help conserve this lovely old house.

In April 2000 Medieval wall paintings were discovered under paint in the entrance hall.  English Heritage have seen them.  These panels need to be properly conserved - but we do not know how this is going to happen.

We bought the property in 1998 and live here with our two sons.

The land is farmed by a tenant farmer who also utilises the modern farm buildings.

Anita Dawn Allen and William Richard Arthur Allen

A note regarding Listed Buildings - English Heritage:

Buildings can be listed because of age, rarity, architectural merit, and method of construction.  Occasionally a building is selected because it has played a part in the life of a famous person or has been the scene of an important event. An interesting group of buildings – such as a model village or square – may also be listed.  The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed.  All buildings before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840.

Grade I  Of exceptional interest, Grade II*  Particularly important building of more than one special interest, Grade II  Of special interest – warranting every effort to preserve them.

Mrs Allen is a keen botanist and has a large and ever developing garden of 200-acre estate around ancient historic manor house.  To the South and sides of the manor are lawned flower gardens with gravel driveways.

There is a wildlife garden and a lovely wooded area full of ancient hardwoods and the approach to the manor is enhanced by the profusion of beautiful trees which frame it.  There is also a kitchen garden and orchard.

At one point at which the long private drive turns the bend to reveal the manor, there is a stream which feeds one of several large, old fish ponds.

To the east side of the gardens there is the old cobbled farm yard which runs between the large traditional stone farm buildings, which are set well away from the vicinity of the house.  These include the Threshing Barn, the Shippon and Stable, Barn and Feed Store.  There are also some modern farm buildings.

Shapcott Barton field names include:  Quickman’s Close, Guinea Close, Cleave Down, Wheatleigh, Thorn Close, Gratton, Great and Little Shore, Pond Close, Challapark, Ridge Meadow, Little Ridge and Middle Ridge, Calvery Meadow and New Linhay.

Mrs Allen holds speciality hybrid National Plant Collections of Leucanthemum superbum (shasta daisies) and Buddleja davidii. There are many butterfly plants including over 40 varieties of phlox, many butterfly plants including over 40 varieties of phlox.. She also rears rare breeds of poultry.

The garden is sometimes open to the public. You can read more here: NGS Gardens

Mr & Mrs Allen do sometimes welcome visitors to view the house, by appointment.  For more details please contact Mrs Allen at::

Shapcott Barton, Knowstone, South Molton. North Devon.  EX36 4EE   Tel./Fax. +44 (0)1398 341664

An 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

Shapcott Family Contents   |   Shapcotts During The English Civil War

Shapcott Family of Looe   |   Looe A Branch   |   Looe B Branch   |   Looe C Branch   |   All About Looe   |   Contact Us

The Shapcote Family of Stepney & The Second Convict Fleet   |   Our Branch of the Shapcotts of Whitestone Exeter and the Musical Shapcotts