I’ve written about Eble previously: Who Was Eble le Strange but this was my first visit to Knockin to see the place he was probably born and grew up.
Knockin is just south of Oswestry and is a small village that straggles a busy road. Originally named Cnukyn, Welsh for a small hillock, it was once a market town. On one side of the road there is a pub, the Bradford Arms, The Forge, which is bed and breakfast accommodation, and a post office named The Knockin Shop. The church of St Mary and the tree covered mound where the castle once stood are across the road. Apart from a few houses, a community hall and a cricket club that’s about it. Although Knockin is the site of one of the radio telescopes in the MERLIN array. There is also Knockin Hall. The present hall is a Grade II-listed property, built on the site of a formal medieval hall, which dates from the early 18th century. It isn’t visible from the road and is not open to the public, though you can get a sneaky look via this link from the Oswestry Family and Local History Group: Knockin Hall
It was the church and the site of the castle that I wanted to see, so after a dash across the road, avoiding the thundering lorries, I found the gate and walked through the small graveyard to have a look. The church was founded by Ralph le Strange between 1182 and 1195, although it was restored in the 19th century and only the chancel, nave, and north aisle are Norman. It’s only small and would have been smaller originally as it was intended to serve only the inhabitants of a small castle. Inside the floor was covered by cloths as they have bats roosting there!
To the east of the church is a distinct mound that is now covered in trees. It stands at the confluence of two streams. There are no visible remains of the castle although there could be some buried beneath the earth. Knockin was a motte and bailey castle founded by Guy le Strange between 1154 and 1160. It was probably built from the local sandstone and was similar in colour to the porch of the church, which is a much later addition. The inner bailey enclosed the chapel and an outer bailey stood around the village. There was also a mill, although the location is not known.
The castle was the principal holding of the le Strange family throughout the Middle Ages but was described as ruinous in 1540. In later years Knockin passed into the ownership of the Earls of Bradford. The title of Lord Strange passed into the Stanley family.