Leicester Chronicler

Tempus omnia revelat
Time reveals all


Listening to the historic heartbeat of the City of Leicester and its environs in the English East Midlands

A reflection of past and present thoughts and aspirations


 

The sadness of Knaptoft

 

Small rural index picture- Kibworth footpath   Small rural index picture - Little Bowden churchyard   Small rural index picture - Victoria Park   Small rural index picture - Gartree Road   Small rural index picture - Kibworth Parish Church

 

 

There is a tangible feeling of sadness in this quiet remote place.  Perhaps it is the evidence of destruction, or simply the solitude and the isolation.  The silence of a village that no longer exists.  Of families uprooted.  Perhaps it is the deeper silence of suffering, following the violence of civil war.

 

 

Knaptoft Ruins

 

 

Knaptoft is one of Leicestershire's `lost' villages. A settlement that was doomed to die from as early as the Black Death of the 14th Century.  Today, all that is left to identify the settlement is a collection of farm buildings, and the ruins of the ancient parish church.

 

 

Knaptoft Ruins

 

 

The village is listed in the Domesday Book as Cnapetot, and is referred to as Cnapetoft in manuscripts of the 13th Century. The name derives presumably from the old Scandinavian `toft' meaning homestead, and probably a personal name, so refers to "the settlement of a man named Cnapa".  However, the Old Norwegian word `Knappr' meaning summit of a hill, and the Old English term `Cnap' meaning boy or servant, may also have some association.



 

Knaptoft Ruins




In 1301, the manor of Knaptoft consisted of the manor house, with its enclosed gardens, two fish ponds, and twenty tenants including a miller who operated the windmill. It was regarded as one of the most important estates in the area. After enclosures in the 16th Century, the population of the estate began to decrease until, by 1624, only the Lord of the Manor and five labourers remained.  After depopulation, the buildings began to decay, and today there are few indications on the ground of the former settlement.  The present farmhouse adjacent to the church ruins is said to be on the site of the former manor house.


 

Knaptoft Ruins



It is said that the small church of St Nicolas, already without its former settlement and parish, was destroyed by Cromwellian forces after the Battle of Naseby on 16 June 1645.  Certainly Knaptoft would have been one of a number of villages through which soldiers of Charles I's defeated army would have passed on their long desperate flight towards Leicester, attempting to stay ahead of the victorious Parliamentarians.  



 

Knaptoft Ruins



Naseby was a decisive battle of the English Civil War. A seasoned army was defeated, and its courage destroyed.  More than a thousand Royalist soldiers were killed, either during the battle, or whilst attempting to escape across the south-Leicestershire countryside towards the sanctuary of Leicester.  Brief violent skirmishes took place, not only at Knaptoft, but at Wistow, Kilby and no doubt wherever small groups of escaping Royalists in hiding were discovered by the victorious New Model Army.  



Knaptoft Ruins

 



Today, the church ruins at Knaptoft are peaceful. Victorian gravestones, memorials and wild flowers inhabit the former nave. The original urn-shaped font is still standing in the former chancel.  There is tranquillity and solitude amongst the ancient stones and the neat flower borders.  Local people still worship here.  Open-air services are held throughout the summer on Sunday mornings, the responsibility shared between local congregations of different Christian denominations, the hymn singing led by a local village brass band.  The church that was probably destroyed because of differences in religious thought and belief is now cared for by men and women from both the established church and non-conformism.



 

Knaptoft Ruins



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All text and images Stephen Butt 2005