Jessie Knight

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Jessie Knight
EducationCharlie Bell
Known fortattoo artist

Jessie Knight (1904 – 1992) was the first recorded female tattoo artist in the UK.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Jessie Knight was born in Croydon in South London, in 1904, one of eight children. Her family worked in circuses and she was involved in sharp-shooting and riding acts. She was married aged 27, but this only lasted eight years.[1] She died in Barry, South Wales, in 1992.

Career as tattoo artist[edit]

Knight began as a tattoo artist in 1921 in Barry, South Wales, having learnt how to tattoo from her father.[2] She was later an apprentice with Charlie Bell in Kent. She then moved to her own tattoo shops in Portsmouth and subsequently Aldershot. Many of her clients were women.[3] She returned to Barry in 1968 and continued working into the 1980s.[4]

Her style was to work freehand after drawing the design onto the body.[2]

In 1955 her tattoo of a highland fling won second prize in the Champion Tattoo Artist of All England competition held in London.[1]


Her work was included in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, from March 2017 to January 2018, showing a history of British tattooing.[5] Tatty Devine has made a brooch and a necklace using an original design of Jessie Knight. Skin Digging, an exhibition of work by and owned by Jessie Knight from the remarkable collection of Neil Hopkin-Thomas January 18 - February 18 at the Art Exchange gallery on the University of Essex campus in Colchester.

Curator Dr Matt Lodder will be giving a talk on Jessie Knight and tattooing in the 20th century at a special event on 7 February 2018.


  1. ^ a b c Iqbal, Nosheen (14 March 2017). "Life at the sharp end: Jessie Knight, Britain's first female tattoo artist". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b DeMello, Margo (2014). Inked: Tattoos and Body Art around the World (First ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 809. ISBN 978-1610690751.
  3. ^ "Jessie Knight". YouTube. Pathe News. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  4. ^ Mifflin, Margot (2013). Bodies of Subversion: A secret history of women and tattoo (3rd ed.). Powerhouse Books. p. 192. ISBN 978-1576876138.
  5. ^ "Tattoo: British tattoo art revealed". National Maritime Museum, Cornwall. Retrieved 15 March 2017.