The Knotts at South Foreland Lighthouse

A dynasty of lighthouse keepers © National Trust/Dover Musuem

A dynasty of lighthouse keepers

The Knott family were keepers at South Foreland for five successive generations.  With eight family members being involved in lighthouse keeping, their family’s history is intertwined with South Foreland’s.  According to historian David Stevenson, it is thought that during the period 1730-1910, the Knotts had probably been the longest serving family of keepers in lighthouse history.

A journey through history

Members of the family observed many historic events.  In 1759, William Knott would have seen Admiral Hawke’s fleet as it sailed down the Channel to engage with the French navy at the Battle of Quiberon Bay.  Henry Knott is known to have lowered the flag in respect to HMS Victory when she sailed past South Foreland in 1778. The Knott family were also close at hand to assist Faraday and Holmes when they conducted their ground-breaking experiments in the use of electric lights in the 1850s.

A love of lighthouses

George Knott (1828-1904) was finally posted to North Foreland before his retirement in Dover.  He became known as an expert woodcarver of models of the lighthouses where he served, but sadly we do not know of a model of South Foreland.  His famous model of Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse can be seen at the Historic Ships Museum in Chatham.

Evidence of the Knott family and their links with the local community can still be found today.  John Knott who died in the service of Trinity House in 1851 is buried in the churchyard in St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, where a nearby lane is also named after the family.