KNIVETON, Thomas (d.1591), of Mercaston, Derbys.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

1st s. of John Kniveton of Hartshorne and Underwood by Anne, da. of Thomas Dethick of Newhall. m. Jane, 2nd da. of Ralph Leche of Chatsworth, at least 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1548, gd.-fa. to Mercaston by 1559.

Offices Held

J.p. Derbys. 1559-c.1561, from c.1573.


Kniveton’s wife was the half-sister and close friend of Bess of Hardwick, whose gentlewoman she became during Bess’s marriages to Sir William Cavendish, Sir William St. Loe and the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Jane Kniveton was frequently left in charge of her household and estates and accompanied her to court for eight weeks in 1591-2, just after the deaths of their respective husbands. Kniveton himself no doubt owed his election as knight of the shire for Derbyshire to Bess’s influence, for he was hardly of sufficient status, his house being described in 1584 as ‘small’ and he of ‘very little means’. His younger brother John was in the service of both 6th and 7th earls of Shrewsbury.2

Although made a justice of the peace at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign Kniveton, for some unascertained reason, soon lost his place on the commission. He was described in the bishops’ reports of 1564 as a ‘good man and meet to be called to office’, and was eventually restored. He contributed to the defence of the country at the time of the Armada and was named in 1589 as one of four Derbyshire justices in whom the Earl of Shrewsbury put special trust in general county affairs, but he did not relish having a recusant named Richard Fenton boarded out with him. To avoid the embarrassment he evidently determined to visit London. The Earl of Shrewsbury saw through the manoeuvre, writing to his brother-in-law John Manners:

When Mr. Kniveton goes to London you must commit Fenton to some other gentleman of like quality, but not before, lest his speech of travel to find health turn to a forged excuse.

Perhaps Kniveton really was ill. On 12 Mar. 1589 he wrote himself to Manners telling him that he had been ill with a cough, cold and fever, ‘and therefore cannot wait upon you’. He died in 1591, his wife being granted letters of administration 23 Dec. In 1611 his eldest son William was created a baronet.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. Genealogist, n.s. vii. 227, 230; D. N. Durant, Bess of Hardwick, 7, 8, 16, 26, 52, 165; PCC 19 Cromwell, 6 Populwell; Hatfield mss 278; Derbys. Arch. Soc. xi. 8; Coll. of Arms, Talbot mss H, f. 753; P. ff. 305, 669.
  • 3. Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 43-4; HMC Rutland, i. 109, 230, 239-40, 259, 268, 269; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 411; Lodge, Illus. ii. 338, 343; PCC admon. act bk. 1591, f. 198.