Thomas Knight (MP for Canterbury)

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Thomas Knight (ca. 1701 – 26 February 1781) previously Thomas Brodnax (1701–1726) and Thomas May (1727–1738), of Godmersham Park, Kent, was an English landowner and Tory politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1734 to 1741.

Early life[edit]

Godmersham Hall

Knight was the son of William Brodnax of Godmersham, Kent and his second wife Anne May, daughter of Christopher May of Greenwich.[1] He matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford on 2 June 1720, aged 18.[2] In 1726, he succeeded his father to the family estate at Godmersham. Also in 1726, he succeeded his cousin Dame Anne May to the May estates at Rawmere, Sussex and changed his name by a 1726 Act of Parliament to May.[3][4] He married Jane Monke, daughter of William Monke of Buckingham House, Shoreham[3] at Grey's Inn Chapel on 11 July 1729. In 1732 he rebuilt the house at Godmersham.[5] He served as Sheriff of Kent for 1729.[1]


As May, he was elected Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for Canterbury at the 1734 British general election. He voted with the Opposition and did not stand at the 1741 British general election.[1] In 1738, he changed his name by Act of Parliament to Knight after inheriting the Chawton estates under the will of Elizabeth Knight, widow of Bulstrode Knight (who was her second husband, her first being William Woodrow Knight of Dean).[6]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Chawton House, January 2008

Knight retired to his seat at Godmersham and in 1742 he enclosed a park round it.[5] He died at Godmersham in 1781. Although he and his wife had five sons and five daughters,[1] only three daughters and a son survived.[6] His son Thomas inherited the estate and was later MP for Kent.

Knight was described as "a gentleman, whose eminent worth is still remembered by many now living; whose high character for upright conduct and integrity, rendered his life as honorable as it was good, and caused his death to be lamented by every one as a public loss".[5]


  1. ^ a b c d "May, Thomas, (formerly Brodnax, afterwards Knight) (?1701-81), of Godmersham Park, nr. Canterbury, Kent". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  2. ^ Foster, Joseph (1888–1892). "Knight, Thomas (2)" . Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886. Oxford: Parker and Co – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ a b William Berry County genealogies: Pedigrees of the families in the county of Sussex
  4. ^ Deed Poll Office: Private Act of Parliament 1726 (13 Geo. 1). c. 4
  5. ^ a b c Parishes: Godmersham, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (1798), pp. 319-332. Date accessed: 24 November 2010
  6. ^ a b Chawton Manor and its owners; a family history. 1911. p. 145. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Canterbury
With: Sir William Hardres, Bt 1734–1735
Sir Thomas Hales, Bt 1735–1741
Succeeded by