It is with deep regret that we record the death (announced briefly in our columns last week), of Mr Fred Knight, J.P., which took place at 8.30 a.m. on Friday last at his home "The Old Rectory", Rushden.
Mr Knight, who was 83 years of age, enjoyed excellent health until 15 months ago when an attack of gastric influenza weakened him considerably. His vigorous constitution, however, enabled him to recover to the extent that he was able to take rides in his car until last autumn. A fortnight before his death he was forced to take to his bed and from that time he gradually lost strength.
By his long association with the civic life of the town and district, Mr Knight was undoubtedly one of the builders of the modern Rushden we know to-day. Until his retirement from the Urban Council in 1931 he was the "Father" of that body, and had previously served on the old Local Board prior to 1894. The senior magistrate of the Wellingborough Divisional Bench, Mr Knight had been a Justice of the Peace since 1901, and he was the first local gentleman upon whom the honour of appointment to the Commission of the Peace was conferred.
Mr Knight was born at Rushden in 1849 and he was the youngest son of parents who, among the 1,400 who comprised the population at that time, were very well known. His education was obtained at a small school conducted in Higham Ferrers by Mr John Sanderson, where the late Mr George Denton and many others who afterwards became leading townsmen were also pupils.
After school days he was apprenticed to the late Mr William Colson, one of the pioneer Rushden boot manufacturers, and it was no uncommon experience for him to remain at work until seven or eight o'clock on a Saturday evening. From Colson's he went to work for Messrs. Abbott and Bird, of Kettering (now Messrs. T Bird and Sons), his companions at the bench including James Crockett, afterwards Sir James Crockett, of Northampton, with whom he formed a friendship which endured until Sir James' death.
At the age of 21, and in the year 1870, Mr Knight founded his own boot and shoe manufacturing business in Rushden.
As an employer and in his business relations Mr Knight had an honourable and even enviable reputation, and it is of interest to-day to recall that when the Rushden Boot and Shoe Manufacturers' Association was formed he was the first chairman. After the local strike in 1890 it was he who signed the first wages statement agreement between the manufacturers and the workers.
Mr Knight's services on the local authority commenced in 1892 when he was elected at the head of the poll to membership of the Local Board, having withdrawn his nomination under a party agreement the previous year. From that date until his retirement from the Urban Council in 1931 he did not fail to retain the confidence of the electors, so that his ultimate retirement closed a period of 30 years continuous service.
Mr Knight was three times chairman of the Urban Council, in 1900-1, 1910-11, and lastly in 1919-20. His first period of office was notable for the death of Queen Victoria and the accession to the throne of Edward VII, while again, in 1910, it fell to Mr Knight to proclaim the new King on the death of King Edward. During his last year as chairman the Boot Manufacturers' Association held their annual meeting at Rushden for the first time, and Mr Knight, by virtue of his office, took part in the proceedings.
In politics Mr Knight was ever faithful to the Liberal Party and as a young man he was prominent in party activities. His character and service were such, however, that he could always command a great deal of non-party support.
It is scarcely necessary to recall that Mr Knight will be long remembered for his association with the Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade. He was an active member of the brigade for 42 years, and captain for 35 years - a fine figure as he rode on the engine or moved among his men at the scene of an outbreak. When he retired with the rank of Hon. Captain, Mr Knight was succeeded in the command by his eldest son, Mr R F Knight, the present chief officer.
Mr Knight was also for many years a member of the Higham Ferrers and Rushden Water Board, a member of the Old Age Pensions Committee, a director of the Rushden and Higham Ferrers District Gas Co., and he retained a lengthy active connection with the Higham Ferrers Association for the Apprehension and Prosecution of Felons, of which he was a committee member.
A Freemason, Mr Knight was admitted to the Wentworth Lodge on March 17th, 1890.
Mr Knight belonged to the generation which, above all others, established Rushden's reputation for sport, and his own part was a worthy one. A good bat who often topped the averages, he was for many years captain of the Rushden Cricket Club, and there are many in the town to-day who class him as the finest and wisest captain the club has ever known. His team included George Denton, John Claridge, J T Colson and other notable players, and Mr Knight himself often played for the County.
Mr Knight helped to form the first Rushden Rugby Football Club, whose team contained many talented players, including Mr G B Mason, the late Mr Charles Bull, Mr C L Bradfield and others. His own special position was at full back, and he was an excellent place kicker. He also excelled as a runner and high jumper. In later years Mr Knight hunted with the Oakley hounds and was very fond of fishing.
Early in his career as a boot manufacturer Mr Knight married Miss Elizabeth Marcia Bradfield, the only daughter of the late Rev. Robert Emms Bradfield, a notable pastor of the Rushden Baptist Church.
Mrs Knight was a lady of distinctive literary tastes, and her prose and verse appearing in magazines and in book form won considerable notice. Her death occurred by a most unhappy coincidence on her husband's 80th birthday in 1929.
Mr C L Bradfield, her only brother, resides in retirement at Newton-road, Rushden, and has been closely associated with Mr Knight in many phases of his work.
The bereaved family comprises Mr R F Knight, Mrs Jessie Hyde, Mr H G Knight, and Mr A F Knight, all residing in Rushden. Another son, Mr J O Knight gave his life on war service in 1916.
The Funeral - Sincere Public Tributes
The funeral took place on Monday afternoon. The Rev. T W Gill, minister of the Rushden Park-road Baptist Church, conducted a service for the family at "The Old Rectory" after which the cortege proceeded to the Rushden cemetery via High-street South and Newton-road.
Horses taking Fred Knight on his last journey
Mr Knight was laid to rest in the grave of his late wife.
Four member of the Rushden Fire Brigade, Firemen Sparrow, Whiting, Britchford and Payne, were the bearers, and some twenty officers and men of the district fire brigades were present.
At the entrance to the cemetery a very large company representing the civic, social, sporting and industrial life of Rushden and district received and joined the procession.
In the cemetery a larger number stood already by the grave. The firemen took up their stations in the form of a hollow square, and in their midst the Rev. Gill delivered an address.
He said: "There are many here who perhaps could speak of Fred Knight in very glowing terms and eloquent terms - those who enjoyed his friendship, for instance, those who knew him as an ideal employer or as a loyal citizen of this town; but I think we represent here this afternoon more particularly the many activities he touched during his career, and we represent the various public bodies as a token of appreciation or perhaps his greatest qualifications - his loyal and large public spirit.
"For a man to retain the affection of the electors for just over 40 years is a great tribute to his character and integrity. To think that for 35 years he captained this Fire Brigade; to think that he was a senior magistrate of the Wellingborough Bench; to think that he was a sportsman of whom one might be proud - a man who played the game!. You are here to thank God for his life and his character; it was a life lived long and lived well. To his family circle we tender our deep sympathy.
"We come, too, to thank God for what can be made of a life. When we think of Fred Knight we thank God that he seized the opportunity and made the most of life as God gave it to him. Above all, we thank Him for the example he leaves to us. We honour him, and his name will remain and endure".
Mr Gill concluded with the vivid lines beginning "He stood upon the world's dim threshold ......." by the poet Lowell.
At the close of the service the firemen filed past, each standing to attention and raising his hand to the salute as he reached the foot of the grave.
The family mourners were Messrs. R F Knight, H G Knight, and A F Knight (sons), and Messrs. George Bayes, John Knight and T Wheeler (nephews). Another nephew Mr J W Corby, was unable to attend, but was represented at the funeral by his wife. Mr C L Bradfield, though unable to attend the ceremony, was at the service in the house.
Chief Officer B T Grimes, of Stamford, the chairman of the North-Eastern District, National Fire Brigades Association, was in command of the guard of honour, which comprised 3rd Officer Frank Parsons, of Spalding (North-Eastern District secretary), 2nd Officer W Packwood, Engineer C Green, Firemen Walker, Timpson, Bailey, Tear, Tassell, Smith and Underwood (Rushden), Chief Officer Harris (Burton Latimer), Chief Officer F W Bailey (Finedon), 2nd Officer A E G Lambert, 3rd Officer H H Carmichael, Firemen E Middleton, A Cherry, E Jennings, and D A Quincey (Higham Ferrers), ex-2nd Officer E Hazeldine, Firemen Fred Shrives and A Litchfield (Raunds), Fireman J Bailey (Irthlingborough), Firemen J T Norton and C Holmes (Stamford), Ex-2nd Officer G R Turner, formerly of Rushden now of Gorleston-on-Sea, was specially represented by Engineer Claude Green.
Other bodies represented were:-
Rushden Urban District Council: Messrs. J Roe J.P. (chairman), J Spencer J.P. (vice-chairman), T Swindall, L Perkins M.B.E., C W Horrell C.A., J Hornsby, G W Coles J.P., F. Green, A Allebone, C.C., J Allen, C Claridge, A Willmott, J T Richardson, W L Beetenson (Assistant Clerk), H Lack (Rates), J W Lloyd (Surveyor).
Magistrates of the Wellingborough Bench: Messrs. Owen Parker, C.B.E., J.P., C.C. (Higham Ferrers), J T Hawthorne, J.P. (Finedon), W S Gibbard J.P. (Strixton), Dr W W Robb J.P. (Irthlingborough), F W Margetts J.P. (Higham Ferrers), W H Lovell J.P. (Stanwick), Mr W Bazeley J.P. (Rushden), with Major F J Simpson (Clerk to the Magistrates), Police Supt. E Jones and Sergeant Brown.
Rushden and District Boot Manufacturers' Association: Councillor W C Tarry (president), Mr J F Sharwood C.C., and Mr S C Brightwell (secretary).
Boot Operatives Union: Mr W Langley J. P. (secretary of the Rushden and District Branch).
Rushden and Higham Ferrers District Gas Co.: Messrs G H Groom (chairman), J W Radburn, L Sanders, A T Watson (manager), W H Spicer and A T Chambers.
Rushden Amateurs C.C.: Messrs. W H Denton, A D Denton, C Partridge, C S Catlow and H Inglis.
Old sporting colleagues of the Rushden Rugby F C and Cricket Club: Messrs. W Brudenell, S Robinson, H Smith and J Linnitt.
Mr. A J Darnell represented the Northamptonshire C.C. and Northampton Town F.C., Mr C S N Browne, the former secretary of the County Cricket Club, being unavoidably absent.
Others present were Mr Fred Corby, Mr J S Clipson, Dr. O A J N Muriset, Dr. J H Crance (Rushden House Sanatorium), Rev. T S Stoney, Messrs. R Marriott, J George, Horace Wright, H B Selwood, C Allen, H Underwood, R Tusting, W Small, H R Patenall (Higham Ferrers), J T Mackness, F S Knight, C H Knight, A Wright (National Provincial Bank), O A H Muxlow (Midland Bank), F L Heygate, W Chamberlain (Higham Ferrers), F J Mules (representing Mr P A Fryer, Wellingborough School), E E Bennett (representing the Rushden British Legion Banch, of which Mr Knight was a vice-chairman), W H Darnell, C C West, J Drage, J Mitchell, H Hodge (Kettering), V P Mobbs (Kettering), W Hardwick, Barnwell, W Russell, W Desborough, A J Sturgess, W W Smith (Wymington), C E Groome (Higham Ferrers), A O Groome, E Sargent, ex-Inspector T Hobell, ex-Sergeant Beale, Mr J F Cook, Staff-Sargeant Prigmore, Mr E C Prigmore, Mr Wm Packwood, senr., Messrs. A H Clarke (British United Shoe Machinery Co.), F W Timson (Leicester), C Lawrence and A Lawrence (Messrs Coggins and Co., Raunds), F J Grose (Northampton), R R Brown, G H Bull, G E Bayes, H Perkins (Messrs Seddon and Arlidge), White (Messrs H W Chapman and Co.), W E Peabody J.P. (Messrs W E and J Peabody Ltd), F R Putman (Messrs J S Deed and Sons Ltd.), A W Head (Messrs A W Head and Co.), T H Beesley (Messrs Beesley and Son), W H Castell (Messrs Geo. Morris and Son), F W Walker (Richard Davies Leather Co. Ltd), and others.
A large wreath worked in the design of crossed axes was inscribed "In affectionate remembrance of our old Chief, from the Rushden Fire Brigade", and among other floral tributes were the following: "With deep sympathy, from the members and officials of the Rushden Urban District Council", "In remembrance, from the employees and staff of Messrs Fred Knight Ltd.", "With deep sympathy from the Directors of the Rushden and Higham Ferrers District Gas Co.".
Mr Fred Bayes carried out the funeral arrangements and the grave was lined with violets, narcissi, tulips and evergreen.