The name Knighton probably derives from the Old English words cniht and tūn meaning, respectively, ". . . a soldier, personal follower, young man, servant, thane, freeman" and ". . . farm, settlement, homestead". This implies that the settlement was perhaps founded as the result of a grant of land to freemen. By contrast the Welsh name (Tref-y-Clawdd) is more straightforward and translates simply as the town on the dyke.
Inhabitants are Knightonians or merely . . . from Knighton.
Inevitably, Knighton's earliest history is obscure but there are local clues: Caer Caradoc (an Iron Age hillfort associated with Caradoc or Caractacus) is away and just off the road towards Clun. Watling Street, a Roman road, passes a few miles to the east at Leintwardine. Knighton is known for a well preserved section of Offa's Dyke.. Intriguingly, Wat's Dyke also runs parallel to Offa's Dyke and a few miles to the east. An earthwork that runs north-south along the English/Welsh border from Basingwerk near Holywell to Oswestry. The dykes aside, two Norman castles, constructed in the 12th century, are the oldest survivals in modern Knighton The town became a borough in 1203, with a charter permitting a weekly market and annual fair. The castle was besieged by Owain Glyndŵr in 1402 and the castle and much of the town were destroyed. The major battle of the rebellion was fought at Pilleth (Welsh: Bryn Glas) south of the town in the same year.
The town’s church dates from the 11th century, but much of it was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is one of only two in Wales dedicated to St Edward; the patron saint of England before St George.. This dedication to an English saint is a symptom of a dual English/Welsh nature of the town that was not legally resolved until 1535 when Knighton was finally confirmed as part of Wales by the Acts of Union.
Knighton first prospered as a centre of the wool trade in the 15th century, and was later an important point on the two drover routes from Montgomery to Hereford, and from London to Aberystwyth. Otherwise, Knighton was remote from the centres of commerce. It seemed likely that the railway revolution would also fail to reach the town; the 1840s and 1850s saw considerable railway building right across Great Britain but Radnorshire had a small population and little industry. The construction of the railway was made economically viable - just - by an entrepreneurial drive to connect the Mumbles and Milford Haven with the cities and factories of the industrial Midlands. The Knighton Railway company was formed by local landowners and businessmen to build a line from Craven Arms to the town. Work began in August 1858 and the line reached Knighton in March 1861. The station itself was built in 1865. To mark the accession of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 the initials "ER" were planted out in deciduous trees within an evergreen forest on the hill to the north of the town.
In August 1970, Knighton hosted a rock festival with bands such as, The Move and the somewhat more obscure Pete Brown & Piblokto, Roger Bunn, Forever More, Clark-Hutchinson, James Litherland’s Brotherhood (James was originally part of Colosseum) and Killing Floor. Comperes were radio DJ Pete Drummond and local resident and bluesman Alexis Korner, who also performed.
After the Acts of Union, Knighton was for nearly 450 years part of the traditional County of Radnorshire. In common with many ancient counties it ceased to exist in 1974 and was subsumed in the county of Powys.
The town council of 13 councillors elects a largely ceremonial mayor. The mayor for 2008 is Ken Fincham. Real municipal authority lies with Powys County Council. Above the county council, the National Assembly for Wales forms the next tier of government.
Knighton falls within the Westminster constituency of Brecon & Radnor and the current MP is Roger Williams - a Welsh Liberal Democrat. The Principality forms one large Wales European Parliamentary constituency. It is part of the National Assembly for Wales constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire and represented by Kirsty Williams AM; she is also a Welsh Liberal Democrat. The town returns a single councillor to Powys County Council; currently Mr K Harris(2008).
Knighton has a hospital on Ffrydd Road on the site of and using some of the former buildings of the Workhouse. It has maternity facilities but no accident and emergency capacity. Primary care is provided by two GP practices and a pharmacy.
Social housing is largely provided by two housing associations; one based in Wales (Mid Wales Housing Association) and another in England (South Shropshire Housing Association).
|2001 UK Census||Knighton||Powys||Wales|
|Speaks and or reads Welsh||15.85%||29.16%||28.4%|
|Born in Wales||38.35%||97.00%||75.00%|
|Welsh ethnicity (self-declared)||3.00%||14.00%||14.00%|
On the last Saturday in August the town holds its annual Carnival and Show, which attracts thousands of visitors to the town from all over the world. It features two parades one at midday and another at around 8 pm; these consist of various themed carnival floats and people dressed in fancy dress. The show takes place at the town's showground at Bryn-y-Castell; also home to Knighton Town F.C., Knighton Cricket Club and Knighton Hockey Club.
Within the town are the visible remains of two early castle mottes. One at Bryn-y-Castell and the other hidden behind the fire station and in a private garden.
Just outside Knighton and visible for many miles, is an observatory with a telescope, Europe's largest camera obscura and a planetarium. The observatory is part of the Spaceguard UK project which searches for asteroids that might threaten the earth.
Knighton is at the centre or the start of 2 National Trails; Glyndwr's Way and Offa's Dyke Path. The Offa's Dyke Association has a visitors' centre in the town alongside the site of the ceremony at which John Hunt, Baron Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine inaugurated the long distance footpath in 1971. It is a walk recommended by the Daily Telegraph. A further trail the Jack Mytton Way passes nearby and yet another Wat's Dyke Way is proposed.
We still had sorrows to lighten,Of perhaps less literary note, Guy N Smith's book The Knighton Vampires is based locally.
One could not always be glad,
And lads knew trouble at Knighton,
When I was a Knighton lad
The football club plays in the Mid Wales League and Aspidistra Radnorshire Cup. The footballer Arthur Rowley brother of England international Jack managed the town's football team.
For recreational sportsmen and women a swimming pool and leisure centre are available.
The town is remote but is connected with the following towns and villages.
Knighton is a nucleated settlement centred on the clock tower with limited ribbon development along the A roads.
Knighton is at . It is in a sparsely populated tract of mid-Wales and the English border characterised by a hilly plateau cut by narrow river-valleys with a broadly east-west axis. To the west, ground rises steeply towards Radnor Forest, and to the north, more gently, to the summit of Clun Forest. Turning east, the elevation falls gently to the Shropshire Plain. To the south of the town stands Llan Wen hill.
The town centre lies at circa 174 metres above sea level although the surrounding hills - Bailey Hill the highest - rise to 418 metres above sea level. The only major river is the River Teme.
It is difficult to improve on the words of Samuel Lewis (a mid 19th century visitor):
. . . .at the head of a deep vale sheltered on all sides by hills of lofty elevation, crowned with timber of luxuriant growth, and commanding extensive and finely varied prospects over the surrounding country
Local bus services are very limited and heavily subsidised but Knighton is fortunate to have a railway station on the Heart of Wales Line which puts the town within 4 hours of London, 2–3 hours of Cardiff and just 1 hour from Shrewsbury.
The River Teme in its higher reaches is not navigable.