KNIVETON, John, of Mercaston, Derbys. and Whatton, Notts.
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Family and Education
yr. s. of Nicholas Kniveton (d.1390) of Mercaston by his w. Agnes. m. by Sept. 1407, Agnes.1
Commr. to make an arrest, Notts. Dec. 1400; of inquiry, Derbys. Mar. 1406 (desertions to northern rebels).
J.p. Derbys. 16 May 1401-Feb. 1404.
Collector of a tax, Notts. Mar. 1404.
This MP is to be distinguished in the early part of his career from his kinsman and namesake, John Kniveton of Bradley in Derbyshire, who was active during the last two decades of the 14th century and died at some point before 1402, leaving a widow named Alice.3 Confusion is all the more likely since both men were on friendly terms with the influential local landowner, Sir John Cockayne*, who, in 1392, assisted the subject of this biography to found a chantry at Ashbourne dedicated to the welfare of the souls of his father and other members of the prolific Kniveton family, to whom he was probably related. Like Cockayne, John was a committed supporter of the house of Lancaster; and his appointment as deputy constable of Nottingham castle, just two days after Henry IV’s accession, suggests that he may even have helped the new King to overthrow his predecessor, Richard II. We do not know exactly when Henry first granted his ‘trescher bacheler’, John Kniveton, a fee of ten marks p.a., but in January 1400 the annuity was increased to 40 marks, payable for life from the honour of Tutbury in Staffordshire, in recognition of loyal service. The office of deputy constable was, indeed, no sinecure. Between 1399 and 1404, Kniveton claimed expenses of over £96 for the victualling, repair and defence of Nottingham castle (which occupied an extremely important strategic position during this troubled period); and in 1407 he was owed in his official capacity a further £64 over and above routine assignments already made to him from the Exchequer. The royal warrant authorizing these additional outgoings paints a sorry picture of Kniveton’s personal finances, since he was then on the point of being outlawed because of his failure to appear in court at the suit of an army of creditors. So desperate were his needs that his wife had even mortgaged her inheritance in the hope of settling the most pressing demands, although she evidently managed to recover it again. Agnes Kniveton appears to have been connected by birth or marriage to the Whatton family of Nottinghamshire; and it was probably through her that John had initially established himself in the local community.4 Certainly, in December 1409, Robert Whatton’s sister and heir, Margaret, the widow of Sir William Bagot*, confirmed the couple in possession of a sizeable estate at Whatton; and by the following year they also enjoyed the tenancy of Margaret’s property in Bingham, Aslockton, Wiverton, Tithby and other Nottinghamshire villages. These, along with all the other holdings currently occupied by them in the county, bore the rather modest evaluation of £14 p.a. in 1412, which may explain why the Knivetons also advanced a claim to Margaret’s manor of Scarrington, although it i