Knapton Parish Council - Knapton, Norfolk, UK.
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Village History
(Extract from the Knapton Village Plan)

History of Knapton:

 

Nestled amidst the beautiful Norfolk countryside and with views of the sea, Knapton is an archetypal village within the Norfolk coastal zone.

 

The Civil Parish has borders with six other parishes - Paston, Mundesley, Trunch, Swafield, Edingthorpe and North Walsham.

 

The origins of the settlement at Knapton are unknown. Small quantities of flint tools, 'pot-boilers' and scrapers have been discovered, implying that the undulating ground between Hall Lane and the B1145 road, which is the boundary with Swafield, was in use during Neolithic times. In his "Portrait of Norfolk", David Yaxley notes that the village boundary with Paston "... has hedges that date only from the 15th or 16th centuries, although the boundary itself goes back to before the Conquest". At the time of the Norman Conquest, 'Kanapatone' was valued at the sum of 20 shillings, which was increased to 60 shillings in the seminal Domesday Book of 1086, perhaps due in part to the greater accuracy and thoroughness of that survey.

 

The name of the Parish has been the subject of many theories, but it is generally believed that it probably dates from the period of the Danes invasion, when they opted to settle in Norfolk, rather than just being regular 'visitors'! Walter Rye has advanced a theory that several Norfolk village names reflected names in Scandinavia, and in his "History of Norfolk", he connected Knapton with Knappen in Eastern Denmark. Recent scholarship suggests: 'Cnapa' (Old English personal name) + 'tun' (meaning settlement or farm).

 

The Parish records, held in the County Archives, date from 1687 to the 1920's. A study of these proffers a clear picture of closely knit families with their lives revolving around farming and its allied crafts and trades. The numerous farms of differing sizes contained within the village were quite varied and included both arable and livestock farming. Today there are far fewer farms but farming nevertheless plays an important part in the modern life of this village.

 

Shortly prior to the 20th century, the railway came to Knapton. The 'Paston and Knapton' station was built with the N&SJR line originating in North Walsham and terminating in Cromer. The railway opened new opportunities for the more enterprising residents, but for the majority life continued as normal. Although this railway line closed many decades past, the station building is still extant, albeit as a private abode.

 

The Censuses of 1841 to 1901 offer an interesting snapshot of the families within the village and, together with other records and photographs, show the development of Knapton which in its heyday had a school, post office, railway station and three shops, in addition to the extant church and chapel. It is quite surprising to note that, in 1843, the annual value of the land and buildings of Knapton was assessed at £2,622, which was higher than that of Sheringham, despite the population of the latter being about three times that of Knapton.

 

Some Knapton Buildings:

 

A considerable number of new buildings have appeared during the past half century but the planning laws have ensured that such have been sympathetically designed. The Methodist Chapel began life as a Baptist Meeting House. After careful restoration and development it still provides a homely and attractive place for worship. The Church of St Peter and Paul is one of the oldest buildings within the village and is a popular tourist attraction. The building dates primarily from the 14th century; its fine double hammer beam roof, adorned with tiers of angels from the 16th century, and the Greek Palindrome inscribed font cover from the 18th century.

 

In his monumental series of books entitled "The Buildings of England", Sir Nikolaus Pevsner chose to describe three Knapton buildings: Knapton House, Knapton Hall and Knapton Old Hall. Knapton House and Knapton Hall were both constructed in the early 19th century and have distinctive features of the Regency period. Both properties were built and lived in by the Robinson family who, over the years, played a great part in the lives of many of the villagers. Constance Robinson was the granddaughter of Sir Henry Robinson (Sword Carrier to Queen Victoria) and a number of local families had cause to remember her kindness and largesse.

The Old Hall has parts dating from the late 16th century but has, unsurprisingly, been extended and altered over the subsequent centuries! There is an attractive cottage in the centre of the village which bears the initials A.W. and the date 1805: the year of the famous Battle of Trafalgar. This building was the local Post Office for many years during the 20th century.

 

Knapton School closed its gates almost 30 years past but in 2007 a memorable book was produced entitled 'Knapton Remembered', edited by a notable daughter of Knapton, Baroness Gillian Shephard. It consists of a collection of evocative memories written by many of the former pupils who attended the school during the 1930's-60's, under the remarkable headship of Mrs Kathleen Johnson. The population of the village in 2009 is still around the same number as it was in the mid-19th century but these are now, thankfully, distributed amongst a greater number of homes! There are fewer children but they still constitute a reasonable percentage of the population.

In common with many rural villages, the railway station, shops et al, have disappeared. However, the church, chapel and village hall still provide a focal point for the various village based activities, groups and societies. Thus the village continues to retain an essence of its traditional community spirit. Whether you have spent your life in Knapton or have been fortunate enough to discover the village later and make it your home, there is little doubt that it is a marvellous place to live.



 

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