KNIGHT, Simon (d.1583), of Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

Offices Held

Bailiff, Exeter 1558, receiver of revenues 1566, sheriff 1570, mayor 1571, 1580.


Knight was an Exeter merchant of unknown family, unless there was a connexion with the William Knight who was bishop of Bath and Wells 1541-7. According to John Hooker, his contemporary, who wrote short biographies of many Exeter mayors, Knight was born in Somerset

at Collys Combe ... of good parentage. His father, having many other children, brought him to this city and bound him apprentice unto a merchant named John Morgan. [When Morgan died, Knight] served under Mr. William Hurst [] who, having a good liking of the towardness of the young man, did employ him both at his side and beyond the seas, and he did so well follow his business that he prospered very well.

When Knight and Tothill together represented Exeter in the Parliament of 1572, they were instructed to attempt to secure that all merchants should be members of corporate towns, and ‘that the statute staple shall be reduced to the city again’. This was the subject of a bill in the third session of this Parliament, 1581. Knight and Tothill also concerned themselves with the gavelkind bill which had been on the list for action in the Parliament of 1563. This was introduced again, reached a second reading and engrossment, but proceeded no further until it was reintroduced and passed in the 1581 session. The two Exeter Members were also concerned with cloth legislation, and on 30 Jan. 1581, Knight sat on a committee considering wrecks.

No one was compelled to serve as mayor of Exeter more than once in nine years. Hooker says that Knight

did very well in the first but in the latter he was so encumbered in litigious and troublesome matters that ... he was the more remiss in public matters.

These lawsuits could have been a Chancery case against him, a complaint he sent to the Privy Council about the sons of (Sir) John Fulford or a quarrel over piracy which he took to the Admiralty court in 1578 and which developed into a feud with a local Admiralty official named Peppitt. In 1580 Peppitt caused Knight to appear before the Privy Council, alleging that through his negligence as mayor, a notorious pirate who had been arrested and imprisoned at Exeter had been allowed to escape. Knight retaliated in the courts against Peppitt, who complained of being ‘marvellously vexed in law’ by him.

Knight owned property at Sampford Peverell by 1564 and at Moreton Hampstead by 1571. He was assessed at £20 for the 1576 subsidy. He died 2 June 1583. According to Hooker

Among sundry virtues for which he was so commended, so for his too much well thinking of himself and standing in his own conceit to be wiser than others, and also for his too much jesting of other men, he was much blamed and less liked of.

Roberts thesis; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xliv. 206; xlv. 410, 411; lxi. 208; Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 360; Collinson, Som.iii. 387; D’Ewes, 290, 294, 299 (where the Exeter bill is described as for Chester); Statutes, iv. 657; PRO Lists and Indexes, vii. 167; APC, xii. 94, 163, 186, 233, 267-8; x. 239; SP12/122/32, 58; Devon RO Tingey 662.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler