Matthew KNIGHT (1817–1886)
His wife Mrs Jane KNIGHT, née Wakefield (1813–1885)
St Giles [Ss Philip & James] section: Row 47, Grave K39½

Matthew Knight


Loving Memory of


WHO DIED MAY 5, 1885





Matthew Knight was born at Slinfold near Horsham in Sussex in 1817 and baptised there on 7 December, the son of Nathan Knight and his wife Harriet. He may be the Matthew Knight who in 1841 was aged between 20 and 25 and working as an agricultural labourer at Itchingfield, near Horsham.

Jane Wakefield was born at Romford, Essex in 1813 and baptised at St Leonard's Church, Colchester on 16 May, the daughter of the shoemaker John Wakefield and his wife Elizabeth. She is probably the woman of that name, aged 27, who was working as a servant in Marylebone in 1841.

On 14 July 1842 at Shoreditch, London, Matthew Knight married Jane Wakefield: they were both described as servants living at 10 Union Place. They had the following children:

  • George Wakefield Knight (born at Clarendon Mews, Paddington on 21 May 1843 and baptised at St Mary’s Church, Paddington Green on 30 July)
  • Thomas Robert Knight (born at Clarendon Mews, Paddington, London on 17 October 1844 and baptised at St John’s Church, Paddington on 1 December)
  • Martha Jane Knight (born in Islington, London in 1846, reg. third quarter)
  • Ellen Knight (born in Rugby in 1850 and baptised at St Matthew's Church there on 4 August)
  • Matthew John Knight (born in Rugby in 1853 and baptised at St Matthew's Church there on 7 August)

Matthew continued to work as a servant in London after his marriage, and he and his wife Jane Knight lived first in Kensington, then Paddington, and finally Islington.

By the beginning of 1850 they had moved to Rugby in Warwickshire, and Matthew remained a servant. At the time of the 1851 census they were living at 35 Union Street, Rugby with their children George (7), Martha (4), and Ellen (1). Their missing son Thomas (9) was a pupil at a boarding school in Eastbourne. Their youngest son Matthew junior was born in Rugby the following year.

By the time of the 1861 census Matthew Knight was employed as a college servant in Oxford, living at 3 Worcester Place with his wife and his two youngest children, Ellen (11) and Matthew junior (8). Two of their children were living back in Islington: Thomas Robert Knight (16) was lodging at 14 John Street West and working as a clerk in H.M. Printing Office, and Martha (14) was living with her uncle and aunt Thomas & Martha Tomkins at 3 Albert Street. George (17) appears to have been lodging in London.

In 1863 Matthew Knight junior won a prize for General Knowledge (age 10 to 12) at St Paul’s School in Oxford.

Balliol College: Master's Lodgings

By the time of the 1871 census Matthew (53) had been appointed butler to Benjamin Jowett (who had succeeded as Master in 1870), and his wife Jane (56) was his housekeeper. They were living at Balliol College (probably at the Master's Lodgings, right):Two of their children, Ellen Knight (21) and Matthew John Knight (18) were living with them at Balliol and were themselves servants of the college. Matthew, who was described as an amanuensis, was Jowett's secretary.

Their daughter Ellen was married in 1873:

  • On 12 April 1873 at St Paul's Church, Oxford, Ellen Knight married Henry Coles, an attorney’s clerk of Observatory Street and the son of the baker Job Coles.

Martha Jane Knight was duly appointed Jowett's housekeeper in her sister's place, and also worked as his amanuensis.

Their second son Thomas Robert Knight died in Oxford at the age of 31 in July 1877: see separate grave.

Their youngest son Matthew John Knight continued to work as Benjamin Jowett's secretary, and helped him with his scholarly work until the end of the 1870s, when he began to suffer from tuberculosis.

By the time of the 1881 census Matthew Knight senior (63) described himself as a retired butler and had probably already moved to Kingston Road. On census night he and his wife Jane were paying a visit to their daughter Martha Knight (34) at Balliol College, where she was a housekeeper.

By the mid-1880s Matthew and Jane Knight were living in retirement at 58 Kingston Road, and Jane died there in 1885:

† Mrs Jane Knight died at 58 Kingston Road at the age of 71 on 5 May 1885 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 8 May (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church).

The death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 9 May 1885 read simply: “May 5, at 58, Kingston-road, Oxford, Jane, wife of Mr. Matthew Knight, aged 71.”

Her youngest son Matthew John Knight was married soon after her death:

  • On 2 September 1885 at Chipping Norton, Matthew Knight junior (32), described as a private secretary of Balliol College, married Ada Plumridge (31), who was born in Oxford in 1853, the daughter of the carpenter George Plumridge and the straw bonnet maker Sarah Rainbow, and was now living in Chipping Norton.

Matthew Knight senior died the following year:

† Matthew Knight died at 58 Kingston Road at the age of 68 on 7 September 1886 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 10 September (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church).

His death notice published in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 11 September 1886: “Sept. 7, at 58, Kingston-Road, Oxford, Mr. Matthew Knight, aged 68; much respected.”

His effects came to £690 3s. 10d., and his wife and solicitor were his executors.

Surviving children of Matthew and Jane Knight
  • George Wakefield Knight (born 1843) emigrated to New York, where he worked as personal secretary to the banker John Pierpont Morgan. He had two wives: Lucy Wilson, and then Sarah Davis. His son by his first wife Lucy, Charles Robert Knight (born in New York on 21 October 1874), became a famous wildlife artist.
  • Martha Jane Knight (born 1846), who in 1881 was the housekeeper at Balliol College, was described as both housekeeper & secretary there in 1891, and a number of letters from Benjamin Jowett in that year when he was ill are in her hand. She was still a housekeeper in 1901 but was paying a visit to Mrs Penelope Bennett, a lodging-house keeper at 33 Kingston Road, on census night. By 1911 she herself was a lodging-house keeper with an assistant and a servant at 13 Ship Street, which had fifteen rooms. She died at 125 County Road, Swindon at the age of 83 on 25 January 1930. Her effects came to £1,432 14s. 11d.
  • Ellen Knight, Mrs Coles (born 1850): see separate grave.
  • Matthew John Knight (born 1853) was aged 38 and living at Brading in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight at the time of the 1891 census with his wife Ada (37): they had probably moved there for the sake of Matthew's health. His death at the age of 42 on the Isle of Wight was reported thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 September 1895: “Sept. 24, at Brading, Matthew Knight, of Oxford, for many years Secretary to the late Master of Balliol.” His effects came to £1,070 11s., and probate was granted to his widow Ada.



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