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Our History

Knighton House was built in about the middle of the 18th Century and was the village farmhouse when Henry William Portman purchased Durweston in 1774. It remained a farm until about the 19th Century when the farmer moved to the house by the church, Knighton Manor.

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 1st Viscount’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 2nd Viscount moved to live at 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 6th Viscount. He died in 1946. For over a year the house was empty until 1948 when Gerald William, Lord Portman’s eldest son, moved in with his wife, 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 came 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 and four years later, in 2020 Bryanston School purchased Knighton's freehold site, restoring the site as part of the original Portman Estate for the first time in almost a century. Also in 2020, Knighton decided to make the move towards coeducation, welcoming back boys to the School for the first time in over 60 years. On 1 September 2021, Knighton House officially merged with Bryanston School and the prep school was renamed Bryanston Knighton House.