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Theresa Clark, 2008
Ebenezer Knight 1811 – 1886

Ebenezer Knight
Ebenezer Knight
Ebenezer was born in Rushden on 17th January 1811, the fifth of the seven children of Samuel and Hannah Knight. The family were members of the Baptist Top Meeting, where Samuel was a deacon from 1815 until his death in 1851.

Samuel was a carpenter by trade and did all the woodwork when the Baptist Meeting House was rebuilt in 1796.

Ebenezer married Elizabeth Sargeant on 3rd June 1830. They lived in Duck Street and had two sons Joseph and (Thomas) Sargeant Knight. Ebenezer was employed as a shoemaker and Elizabeth as a lace maker.

From 1857 – 1879 the minister at the Old Baptist Top Meeting in Little Street was the noted Robert Emms Bradfield. He was a distinguished preacher and leader, but also led his loyal congregation in the battles for education, Chartism and Temperance.

Ebenezer was inspired by his minister and was Mr Bradfield’s right-hand man in all his struggles for better conditions for the people. He was active in the pursuing of the ideals of Temperance and Chartism. Ebenezer was one of the founders of the Rushden Temperance Society.

Chartism was a working class movement between 1838 and 1848. They campaigned for the vote for all men over 21, a secret ballot, pay for members of parliament, equal electoral districts and annual elections. The charter, which was signed by over one million people, was rejected by parliament and sixty chartists were transported.

Ebenezer was also a Baptist preacher. On Sundays he would walk to Riseley and back to preach at the Baptist Chapel, this he continued until he was about 70 years of age. He would also walk to Sharnbrook and other villages to preach there. Ebenezer was a Baptist deacon from 1880 – 1885.

At this time the only school took place irregularly in the old parish workhouse. When this closed the Nonconformists campaigned unsuccessfully for a subsidized non-sectarian school.

Ebenezer was a secretary of the Baptist Sunday school (a post he held for 32 years); he had a reasonable education and the ability to teach, so he became the teacher at the new independent school, situated on the site of the vestry hall.

The only income for the schoolmaster was the boy’s weekly pence, but he was often also employed by local farmers to measure their land, giving the boys a welcome break from their schooling! Walter Green describes him in his memoirs as ‘…the venerable old schoolmaster, a thin man of medium height, active, long nose, small keen eyes with spectacles and standing many hours of the day behind a rickety old desk, with the chastening rod in his hand.’ Walter recalls that the boys had their own rhyme about him…

‘Mr Knight he’s a very good man,

He learns his scholars as much as he can,

To read, to write and arithmetic,

But he never forgets to give ‘em the stick.’

Rushden had a large nonconformist population and the school in the parish churchyard with a Baptist schoolmaster encouraged children of all denominations to attend. However, in 1869 the new rector, Rev J T Barker wanted the school to be a National school run by the Anglican ‘National Society for the Education of the Poor according to the Principles of the Church of England’, rather than have the children influenced by a Baptist and former chartist. He also thought there should be a parish hall on the site, rather than a school. There was a meeting with the Charity Commissioners to try and find a way forward. In 1870 a National School was opened in High Street South and Ebenezer later returned to the shoe trade.

At this time Ebenezer and Elizabeth were living in the High Street and Joseph’s son William (Cumberland) Knight, a clicker was living with his grandparents. William joined Mr Charles Lawrence in partnership in 1893, and later formed Knight & Lawrence.

Ebenezer died on March 14th 1886 aged 75

An entry in the Old Baptist Church ‘Top Meeting’ Old Record Book 1882 –1899 says the following about him:

‘In many ways he has served the Church of God in this place. He was an earnest and total abstainer, intelligent & consistent Christian, a good & useful preacher of the Gospel, and a man of sterling integrity of strong faith & indomitable perseverance. His life was one of great usefulness and his end was peace.’

Theresa Clark

(Great-great-great-granddaughter of Ebenezer Knight)

Sources

These Years Have Told – George E Bayes 1951

Rushden – William Green 1892

Rushden and Higham Ferrers Tales – Eric Jenkins 2001

Old Baptist Church ‘Top Meeting’ Old Record book 1882 – 1899


Extract from obituary - The late Mr. William Knight was the grandson of Mr. Ebenezer Knight, a well-known Rushden worthy, and a leading Baptist. Mr. Ebenezer Knight, up to the time he was about 70 years of age, would on a Sunday walk to Riseley and back, nine or ten miles each way, to preach at the Baptist Chapel there, and he would walk to and from Sharnbrook and other villages in order to preach. Ebenezer Knight died at the age of 72 — a young man as far as his walking powers were concerned. It was Mr. Ebenezer Knight who brought up his grandson William. Mr. Joseph Knight, jun., boot manufacturer, of York-road, Rushden, is a brother of the late Mr. William Knight.

Apprenticeship of his grandson William

Notes from his Diary 1869-70 - made by J Enos Smith

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