KNAPTON, John, of Cambridge.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

m. Ellen Bolton.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Cambridge Sept. 1402-4; mayor 1432-3.2


Of Knapton’s property in Cambridge, nothing is known save for his house, called ‘Bolton’s’ or ‘Knapton’s Place’ in Trumpington Street.3 He appears to have been often in financial difficulties, for on a number of occasions he was sued for debt. His failure to appear in court in London, to satisfy one of his creditors of longstanding in the sum of £5 9s.5d. and for damages of £2 6s.8d., resulted in his outlawry until in 1403 he surrendered himself to the Fleet prison to pay his dues; and he had to secure a second pardon of outlawry in 1414, following a suit brought by a London fishmonger to whom he owed more than £5. However, Knapton pressed his own debtors for payment of sums owing: in 1408 he sued a Cambridge man for £2, and in 1428 another London fishmonger for five marks.4 Tempers were all too easily aroused while such litigation was in progress: in 1412 another Londoner, Thomas Denever, had been required to find sureties for keeping the peace when Knapton had taken legal action against him. Also, according to a petition presented to the King’s Council by the mayor and bailiffs of Cambridge, Knapton suffered violence at the hands of university clerks in 1418 as a result of his association with the mayor, John Bilney I*, who was then involved in a feud with them.5

Early in his career, Knapton had been bailiff for two years running, but he then held no borough office again until, in 1432, the year after his last return to Parliament, he became mayor. However, in the interim he was not uninterested in local affairs, because in addition to his service as a parliamentary burgess on four occasions (at well spaced intervals) he also acted as a witness to the electoral indentures of return (doing so in May 1413, April and November 1414, 1417 and May 1421). Furthermore, in April 1426, at a meeting in the guildhall, he was nominated by the mayor and assessors to choose, with Richard Bush, the first eight members of the common council. He himself became one of the 24 councillors, and later in the year he was named among the aldermen who represented the town at the Magna Congregatio of the university.6 He is not recorded after the end of his mayoralty.

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: E.M. Wade


  • 1. Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xlix. 84.
  • 2. CIMisc. vii. 250; Add. 5833, ff. 134, 136.
  • 3. J.M. Gray, Biogs. Mayors Cambridge, 18.
  • 4. CCR, 1399-1402, p. 487; CPR, 1401-5, p. 230; 1405-8, p. 401; 1413-16, p. 209; 1422-9, p. 437.
  • 5. CCR, 1409-13, p. 314; C.H. Cooper, Annals Cambridge, i. 162.
  • 6. Cooper, i. 175-6.