KNOLLYS, Thomas (c.1612-79), of Grove Place, Nursling, Hants.

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



31 Oct. 1670
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1612, 2nd s. of Sir Henry Knollys (d.1638) of Grove Place, clerk-comptroller of the green cloth, by Catherine, da. of Sir Thomas Cornwallis of Portchester, groom-porter 1597-1618. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1628, BA 1632, MA 1635; I. Temple 1635. m. by 1659, Anne, da. of William Duncombe of Battlesden, Beds., wid. of Sir William Crayford of Beckerings Park, Ridgmont, Beds., 1s. 4da. suc. bro. 1648.1

Offices Held

Fellow of Peterhouse 1634-6; commr. for assessment, Hants 1657, Aug. 1660-d., Southampton 1677-d.; j.p. Hants 1659-d., Dorset and Wilts. 1675-d.; commr. for militia, Hants Mar. 1660, corporations 1662-3; freeman, Portsmouth 1662; verderer, New Forest by 1667-d.; sub-commr. for prizes, Portsmouth 1672-4; commr. for recusants, Hants 1675, wastes and spoils, New Forest 1676.2

Commr. for sick and wounded seamen 1673-4.3


Knollys’s ancestors had been in Hampshire since the reign of Henry VIII, but they were of little account until his father entered the service of the Stuarts and obtained a crown grant of Nursling, five miles from Southampton, in 1630. Knollys’s elder brother, who was created a baronet in 1642, was a Royalist in the Civil War, and compounded at one-tenth for £1,250 in 1645, though only one moiety of the fine had been paid when Knollys succeeded to the estate. Knollys himself, under his father’s will, inherited a portion of £1,200 to be ‘laid out in purchasing and obtaining of some office’, for which his expensive education had sufficiently qualified him; but he became a merchant and apparently took no part in the Civil War. He accepted the Protectorate, holding county office and representing Southampton in 1659, the first member of his family to sit.4

Although Knollys was not re-elected for 11 years he supported the Restoration, acting as commissioner for corporations in 1662. In the same year a private bill to enable him to sell his brother’s Isle of Wight estate was steered through the House by his brother-in-law, Sir John Duncombe. Returned as a court supporter at a by-election in 1670, probably unopposed, he was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to only 14 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions. None of the remainder was of political moment, and all except two were in his first session. Their purposes included the encouragement of an invention, sponsored by (Sir) Philip Howard, to protect ships’ hulls, the preparation of a bill to prevent the export of wool, and the preservation of naval stores from unruly seamen. During the third Dutch war Knollys served as a local prize commissioner and succeeded Bullen Reymes as commissioner for sick and wounded, and when peace was made he was compensated with an excise pension of £200 p.a. He was named on the Paston list, and received the government whip from Secretary Coventry in 1675, though his reliability as a court supporter was ‘doubted’ by Sir Richard Wiseman when Duncombe fell out with Lord Treasurer Danby. Nevertheless he was described in A Seasonable Argument as ‘the treasurer’s kinsman’ with ‘£400 p.a. pension’, marked ‘thrice vile’ by Shaftesbury in 1677, and included among the court supporters on the government list of 1678.5

Knollys successfully defended his seat at the first general election of 1679 and was marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He took no known part in the proceedings of the first Exclusion Parliament, and was absent from the division on the bill, although he was probably in London. He was named to the Commons as a pensioner by (Sir) Stephen Fox, and would undoubtedly have figured in the opposition list of the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters if he had not died soon afterwards. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 3 June 1679. The next member of the family to enter Parliament was Henry Knollys, who sat for St. Ives on the Powlett interest from 1722 to 1734.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. ii. 20; F. A. Blaydes, Gen. Beds. 179, 408; PCC 87 King.
  • 2. HMC 11th Rep. III, 55; Woodward, Hants, ii. 113; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 91; iii. 207; v. 303, 431; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 360; Nat. Maritime Mus. Dartmouth mss 6/1.
  • 3. PC2/63/368.
  • 4. Misc. Gen. et Her. ii. 19; VCH Hants, iii. 434; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1065; G. E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 82.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 368; Evelyn Diary, iii. 602.
  • 6. Grey, vii. 324; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 197.