KNATCHBULL, John (c.1636-96), of Mersham Hatch, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1636, 1st s. of, Sir Norton Knatchbull 1st Bt.. educ. Trinity Coil. Camb. 1652; I. Temple 1655. m. 17 Jan. 1659, Jane, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Monyns, 2nd Bt., of Waldershare, 3s. d.v.p. 9da. suc. fa. 5 Feb. 1685.

Offices Held

Commr. for militia, Kent Mar. 1660, maj. of militia horse Apr. 1660-at least 1685; freeman, New Romney Apr. 1660; commr. for assessment, Kent Aug. 1660-80, for sewers, Denge marsh Oct. 1660, Walland marsh Dec. 1660, 1689-90, corporations, Kent 1662-3, dep. lt. by 1670-Feb. 1688, 1689-d., commr. for recusants 1675, j.p. 1680-Feb. 1688, 1689-d.1

Commr. for privy seal 1690-2.2


Knatchbull was returned with his father for New Romney at the general election of 1660, but was named to no committees in the Convention and made no recorded speeches. With the revival of government interest in 1661 he lost his seat to a courtier, Sir Charles Berkeley II. It is perhaps surprising at first sight that he should fail to find a seat in any of the Exclusion Parliaments after his father had retired from public life. But his marriage had drawn him into kinship with Lord Treasurer Danby, the other Monyns coheir having married Peregrine Bertie I, and his brother was secretary to the lord chancellor (Heneage Finch), which would have made his candidature unacceptable during the exclusion crisis. He was a prudent man, both politically and financially, maintaining a credit balance of between £4,000 and £6,000 at Hoare’s Bank. He was warmly backed by the Court for the county seat in 1685, but was nevertheless listed by Danby among the Opposition. An active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to 15 committees, of which the most important were to recommend expunctions from the Journals and to consider the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees.3

In answer to the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, Knatchbull reserved his judgment for the debates in the House. ‘He does not think it proper to assist to the election of such as will previously declare their opinions.’ He was removed from local office, though the King’s election agents described him in the same terms as Sir William Twysden. Knatchbull’s diary is a valuable source for the Revolution in Kent. He refused to serve as deputy lieutenant to the Roman Catholic Lord Teynham, and on 11 Dec. 1688 was ordered by the Privy Council to seize all Jesuits and other suspects in Kent. He paid his respects, rather unwillingly, to the captured King at Faversham, but signed the ‘Association’ and was returned for the county unopposed.4

Knatchbull sat in the Convention as a Whig and was a moderately active Member, being named to 27 committees. He was added to the committee of inquiry into the delay in relieving Londonderry, and on 17 Aug. 1689 was ordered to carry the bill for preventing the export of wool to the Lords. After the summer recess he was appointed to the committees to consider the bill for restoring corporations and to investigate the miscarriages of the war. His was the first name on the committee for the bill for the Greenwich ‘court of conscience’ for small claims, but his report was rejected by the House on 25 Nov. In the debate on restoring corporations he supported the disabling clause, without which he considered the bill ‘too large’. He was appointed to the committees for enforcing a general oath of allegiance and declaring the rights of election in the Cinque Ports. He was re-elected at the general election, and made a commissioner of the privy seal at the instance of Lord Halifax. He died on 15 Dec. 1696 and was buried at Mersham. His nephew was elected for Rochester in 1702 and for Kent in 1713 and 1722.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Pub. Intell. Apr. 1660; Kent RO, NR/AC2, f. 429.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 471; Luttrell, ii. 326.
  • 3. Stowe 746, f. 14; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 462; 1685, p. 26; H. M. Knatchbull-Hugessen, Kentish Fam. 95; CJ, x. 238.
  • 4. N. and Q. (set. 3), vi. 1-3, 21-23, 41-42, 81; Camb. Hist. Jnl. ii. 48-62; Add. 33923, f. 456.
  • 5. Add. 33923, ff. 465-75.