KNIGHT (formerly WOODWARD), William (1667-1721), of West Dean, Suss.
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Family and Education
bap. 29 Jan. 1667, s. of Edward Woodward of Fosters, Surr. by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Christopher Lewknor† of West Dean. educ. I. Temple 1680, called 1689; Christ Church Oxf. 1685. m. 1st cos. Elizabeth Knight (formerly Martin) (d. 1737), da. of Michael Martin of Eynsham, Oxon., sis. and h. of Christopher Knight* (formerly Martin), s.p. suc. 2nd cos. once removed, John Lewknor*, 1707.1
Sheriff, Surr. 1702–3, Suss. 1709–10.
The Woodward family were minor gentry of Shropshire origin who had migrated to London and then Surrey some four generations previously. They owned a small amount of property in London but were otherwise inconspicuous, even the family name being extinguished on William’s marriage to his cousin Elizabeth Knight. The failure of the male line in the Knight family had resulted in Elizabeth Martin inheriting from her elder brother the estate of her first cousin once removed, Sir Richard Knight† of Chawton, Hampshire, and taking the name of Knight, which her husband also assumed. A similar failure in the Lewknor line left Knight and his wife as coheirs to their second cousin once removed, John Lewknor, and resulted in the unification of the Knight and Lewknor estates in Hampshire and Sussex.2
Knight was active in Midhurst elections for some years before inheriting the nearby Lewknor property at West Dean in 1707. A rumour that he would stand in 1695 proved unfounded, and he then voted for the Tory candidates in the 1708 election, was himself defeated by a Whig at a by-election in 1711 and was finally returned in 1713 as the Tory candidate. Inactive in Parliament during Anne’s reign, Knight was classed as a Tory on the Worsley list and another list comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments, although on a further list classifying MPs re-elected in 1715, he appears as a ‘whimsical Whig’. He continued to sit as a Tory until his death on 26 Oct. 1721. His will of 1719 reveals that his father was still alive at this date and thus Knight may have died v.p. His wife, who later married Bulstrode Peachey†, inherited the whole estate.3