KNATCHBULL, Sir Norton (1569-1636), of Mersham Hatch, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



4 Oct. 1609

Family and Education

bap. 11 Sept. 1569, 3rd s. of Richard Knatchbull (d.1582) of Mersham Hatch, and Susan, da. of Thomas Greene of Bobbing, Kent. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1586; M. Temple 1588; travelled abroad 1604.1 m. (1) Anne, da. of Paul Wentworth† of Burnham, Bucks., s.p.; (2) by Aug. 1592, Bridget (d. 4 Nov. 1625), da. of John Astley† of Maidstone, Kent, master of the Jewel House 1558-96, s.p.; (3) settlement 9 Feb. 1627, Mary, da. and coh. of John Aldersey (d.1614), Haberdasher, of London, wid. of Thomas Westrowe, alderman and Grocer of Cornhill, London, s.p.2 suc. nephew Thomas 1593; kntd. 18 Apr. 1604.3 bur. 9 Dec. 1636. sig. Nor[ton] or Norton Knatchbull.

Offices Held

J.p. Kent 1600-c.27;4 commr. sewers, Kent 1603-d., Walland Marsh, Kent and Suss. 1604, Rye, Suss. 1604;5 sheriff, Kent 1606-7;6 commr. oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1608-d.,7 Kent, Canterbury and Cinque Ports 1627,8 subsidy, Kent 1608, 1621-2, 1624,9 aid for Princess Elizabeth 1612,10 charitable uses 1616, Canterbury 1625;11 collector, money for poor captives of Algiers, Lathe of Shepway, Kent 1619;12 commr. Forced Loan, Kent 1626-7,13 sale of Camber Castle, Suss. 1626,14 martial law, Canterbury and Cinque Ports 1626, repair of highways, Kent 1631.15


Knatchbull’s ancestor, Richard Knatchbull of Lympne, bought Mersham Hatch, four miles south-east of Ashford, in the reign of Henry VII.16 Following the death of his father in 1582, Knatchbull was educated at Cambridge and the Middle Temple alongside his two elder half-brothers. After a brief first marriage, he wed Bridget, one of the daughters of John Astley, master of the Jewel House, and so acquired property in Maidstone.17 In February 1593 he unexpectedly inherited his family’s estate, including the 600-acre manor of Cheyney Court, after the deaths in rapid succession of his half-brothers and five-year old nephew, Thomas.18 He subsequently improved the value of his holdings by draining land in Romney Marsh.19 According to a valuation of Kent’s gentry prepared for lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), he enjoyed an annual income of around £2,000.20

Knatchbull was appointed to the bench in 1600, was knighted in April 1604, and licensed in the following August to travel abroad for a year. Between November 1606 and November 1607 he served as sheriff of Kent, but evidently neglected his duties, incurring fines totalling £106 13s. 4d. for failing to execute process.21 In 1610 he became the first member of his family to sit in Parliament after being returned for Hythe, eight miles from his home, at a by-election in October 1609. He left no trace in the records of the first Jacobean Parliament, and proved unwilling to serve again in 1614, preferring instead to manage the campaign for the county seat for his neighbour and former brother-in-law, Sir John Scott*. After sending a letter to the mayor of Hythe asking to be excused, he co-ordinated the quiet dispatch of Scott’s supporters to Maidstone, but to no avail.22

Following the death of his second wife in 1625, Knatchbull married the widow of a wealthy London alderman, so bringing him within the orbit of lord keeper Sir Thomas Coventry*, whom he entertained in August 1635 at Mersham.23 In April 1625 he wrote warmly in favour of Sir Edward Dering* for a parliamentary seat at Hythe.24 Sometime between July 1626 and March 1627 he was removed from the commission of the peace, perhaps for reasons connected with the Forced Loan. During the war years of the 1620s he kept himself informed of military developments on the Continent.25 Wealthy but childless, he founded Ashford grammar school, which he endowed in his will of 15 June 1636. His other bequests included £20 for the poor of Mersham, £10 for John Cragg, ‘the scholar in my house’ and £20 for ‘Mr. Henry Carpenter, minister, lately dwelling with me’.26 Though it was reported on 3 Dec. ‘that his stomach continues and he resteth reasonable well’, Knatchbull was buried at the church of St. John the Baptist, Mersham six days later.27 A monument, which included a fine, life-sized effigy in marble, was subsequently erected at the north wall of the chancel.28 A three-quarter-length portrait, showing Knatchbull hand-in-hand with his third wife, painted in 1629, hung at Mersham Hatch in 1919.29 Knatchbull’s widow married Edward Scott*. His nephew and heir of the same names represented the county in the Short Parliament, sitting for New Romney until Pride’s Purge and again after the Restoration.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; Add. 29759, f. 49v.
  • 2. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. x (ii), 110; H. Knatchbull Hugesson, Kentish Fam. ped. B; Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/F9, 4 Dec. 1739, Curteis Wightwick to Sir Wyndham Knatchbull, bt. notes on MIs; WARD 7/89/338.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 131.
  • 4. C231/1, f. 83v; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Chas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 24, 34.
  • 5. C181/, f. 63v; 181/2, ff. 90v, 96.
  • 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 69.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 58; 181/5, f. 36v.
  • 8. C181/3, ff. 213, 215v.
  • 9. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 10. E163/16/21.
  • 11. C93/7/7; 93/10/18.
  • 12. Cent. Kent. Stud. U274/07.
  • 13. Harl. 6846, f. 37; SP16/73/30.
  • 14. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 115.
  • 15. C181/4, f. 88.
  • 16. E. Hasted, Kent, vii. 593-4.
  • 17. Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/F9, 4 Dec. 1739, Curteis Wightwick to Sir Wyndham Knatchbull, Bt. notes on MIs.
  • 18. Cent. Kent. Stud. U274/L4, pp. 1, 27-8.
  • 19. E134/17Jas.I/Mich.9.
  • 20. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 526.
  • 21. WARD 9/625, unfol.
  • 22. G. Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports and Parl. Rep. of Hythe, 66; Cent. Kent. Stud. U1115/011.
  • 23. Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC 32/52, f. 117.
  • 24. Wilks, 76-7.
  • 25. Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/C261/13.
  • 26. Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC 32/52, ff. 116-18v; Hasted, vii. 538.
  • 27. J.R. Scott, Scott, of Scot’s-Hall, p. xxxvi; Cent. Kent. Stud. P248/1/1.
  • 28. J.H. Edinger, Par. Church of St. John the Baptist, Mersham, unpag.; Hasted, vii. 600.
  • 29. Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/F9, rough list of pictures, 1919.