KNYVETT, Thomas (1656-93), of Ashwellthorpe, Norf.

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

bap. Feb. 1656, 1st s. of Sir John Knyvett of Ashwellthorpe by Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Bedingfield of Darsham, Suff. educ. St. Catherine’s, Camb. 1672. unm. suc. fa. 1673.1

Offices Held

Col. of militia ft. Norf. 1676-Feb. 1688, Nov. 1688-d., dep. lt. 1677-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-d., commr. for assessment, Norf. 1677-80, Norf., Suff. and Eye 1689-90; j.p. Norf. by 1680-Feb. 1688, Nov. 1688-d., alderman, Dunwich 1685-June 1688, Oct. 1688-d., bailiff Dec. 1688-9.2


Knyvett’s ancestors were lords of the Northamptonshire manor of Southwick by the end of the 12th century. But the real founder of the family fortunes was Sir John Knyvett, lord chancellor from 1372 to 1377, whose son sat for Huntingdonshire in 1397. The family was established in Norfolk by the middle of the 15th century. Knyvett’s grandfather, de jure 5th Lord Berners, a Royalist during the Civil War, was taken prisoner at Lowestoft by Cromwell in March 1643 and his property sequestrated, but he was discharged in 1644, largely as a result of the intervention of Cromwell himself, and excused from decimation in 1655. In his later years he lived with his son-in-law, John Rous I, in Suffolk. Knyvett’s father married into a Suffolk family with a strong interest at Dunwich, and was dubbed knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles II.3

Knyvett himself began to take part in local affairs after the appointment as lord lieutenant of his kinsman, Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston), to whom he wrote:

I must now let your lordship know how proud I am of the honour of being publicly known to be your lordship’s relation and friend, and that I rule myself on nothing so much as that pleasing consideration of our country’s common consent in concluding your lordship to have no little kindness for me.

In May 1676 Yarmouth appointed him colonel of the militia regiment formerly commanded by Sir John Holland, and other local offices followed. He signed the loyal address from Norfolk abhorring the ‘Association’ in 1682. In 1685 he was appointed to municipal office in Dunwich under its remodelled charter and returned unopposed to Parliament for the borough in the ensuing election, no doubt on the Rous interest. A Tory in politics, he left no trace on the records of James II’s Parliament. In 1688 he told the lord lieutenant that he thought it ‘reasonable the Penal Laws be reviewed and amended, but not to repeal the Tests’. He was removed as alderman of Dunwich by order in council in June 1688, but elected bailiff in December. He did not take part in the contested election in the following month, nor did he sign the return. He was himself elected to a seat left vacant at Eye by the return of his cousin, Sir John Rous, for Suffolk. According to Anthony Rowe he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant; but his only committee in the Convention was on a private bill to discharge the Duke of Norfolk of certain payments. He remained an active deputy lieutenant, taking the oaths to the new regime on 30 Sept. 1689, but he did not stand again. He died unmarried on 28 Sept. 1693 and was buried at Ashwellthorpe. His sister established her claim to the Berners peerage in 1720, but he was the last of the family to sit in either House.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. CP, ii. 156-7.
  • 2. Nof. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 9, 37, 63, 90; HMC Lothian, 125; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 32; 1685, p. 15; HMC Var. vii. 104; E. Suff. RO, EE6/1144/13.
  • 3. VCH Northants. ii. 591; Blomefield, Norf. i. 376-9; ii. 157-9; CSP Dom. 1655-6, pp. 344-5, 390; Knyvett Letters (Norf. Rec. Soc. xx), 33, 40; Thurloe, iv. 705.
  • 4. HMC 6th Rep. 378; Add. 36988, f. 180; Add. 27447, f. 357; PC2/72/689; Nof. Ltcy. Jnl. 99.