Knighton House was built in about the middle of the 18thCentury and was the village farmhouse when Henry William Portman purchased Durweston in 1774. It remained a farm until about the 19thCentury when the farmer moved to the house by the church, Knighton Manor.
History of KH
Knighton was enlarged for the first time in 1830 and became the Dower House for the Portman family of Bryanston. In 1857 the house was further enlarged for the 1stViscount’s eldest son, William Henry Berkeley Portman. Here he brought up his large family of eight children, six sons and two daughters. His children played in the garden and rode their ponies around Knighton, 100 years before it became a school. In 1888 he inherited the title and moved to Bryanston House.
From 1893 the second daughter Susan Alice lived and brought up her family at Knighton. In about 1920 Frances, Lady Portman, widow of the 2ndViscount moved to live in Knighton until her death in 1939.
In 1940 the fifth son of the second Viscount, Seymour Berkeley Portman, moved into Knighton. He inherited the title in 1942 becoming the 6thViscount. He died in 1946. For over a year the house was empty before in 1948 Gerald William, Lord Portman’s eldest son, moved in with his wife at Knighton but they had no children, and in June 1950 they vacated the house after the estate was acquired by the Crown Estate.
It was about this time that John and Peggy Booker were approached with the request to start a Girls’ Preparatory School at Knighton. They had been running another school near Ilminster and so Knighton became their home with their ‘enormous’ family and the place became alive again. The school began with a nucleus of boys and girls who had come from their previous school. The boys stayed on for about two years until Knighton became ‘all girls’.
Between 1950 and 2015 the school leased its premises from the Crown Estate. At the start of 2016 Knighton bought its site outright.