I’ve been a Knill since I was twentyone. Even though I recently married for the second time, I’m still using the name for my byline – and all those bills and bank accounts that I haven’t got around to changing.
My first husband’s family hailed from the west. We used to visit his Aunt Ida Knill and her unmarried brother, Harold, who still lived together in the family home – a cottage next to the church in Pilton, Barnstaple. They were great church goers, and early in the 19th century, the Knill family made up the complete church bell-ringing team. I was once shown a poem that had been made up about them. I believe it was published in the local newspaper. How I wish I’d managed to get and keep a copy of it.
Recently, I was browsing the web and came across a pyramid folly just outside St Ives in Cornwall, called the Knill Monument. The text says that it was meant to be a mausoleum for a former mayor of the town, John Knill, who built it in 1782. Sadly, however, he died when he was in London and wasn’t brought back.
But his will instructed that “10 young virgins and 2 older women, possibly widows, accompanied by the local minister, the mayor of St. Ives, a violinist, and a customs and excise man”, should dance around the monument while everyone else sings the 100th psalm "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands."
This spectacle can still be seen on 25th July once every five years. I imagine it takes some doing to be sure you’ve got 10 young virgins, let alone a willing customs and excise man, these days. But I’m setting a date for 2011, which is the next time it’s due to take place.