You are in [People] [Hungerford Characters] [Daddy Knight]

The following article is adapted from text kindly provided by Dr James "Jimmy" Whittaker, Oct 2017:

Many people who lived in Hungerford in the 1960s and walked around Hungerford Common, especially in the area between Southview and the Royal Exchange pub (The Down Gate), would have come across an eccentric character called Daddy Knight. He was well known for his kite flying, and children would tease him and sing in unison “Daddy Knight used to fly his kite - in the middle of the night“. At the time he was living in two caravans on Hungerford Common close to the iron gate leading to Southview (later moving closer to Barry Humphries' stonemason's yard).

It seems that before he moved onto the Common in about 1963, his caravans had been sited in Lewington’s coal yard, run by the Lewington brothers Bill and Bob. The yard also stabled a couple of cart horses that had originally been used by their father to pull a coal cart around the town whilst making deliveries of coal and coke.

Bob lived with his wife Olive and his three daughters, Bobbie and twins Jill and Joy, in Bulpit Lane, and his brother Bill, and his wife Kath, lived in Priory Road with their son Roy and their twins, Paul and Paula.

Incidentally “Bob” was christened Cyril Horace! Bob Lewington was the Orangeman of the Town and Manor from 1967 until 1992. When he retired from office, his position was taken up by his nephew Paul Lewington, who sadly died in 2017 aged 52. This office holder is now in the hands of Jimmy Scarlett. By the way Jimmy’s uncle Dick Scarlett, was the Orangeman for many years and was known by his nickname of “Squab”.

The Lewington’s coal yard was to the side and rear of "Fox’s shop", as it was then owned by Tom Fox. The shop is now 32 Fairview Road - a mini supermarket called One Stop, part of a chain, The nearby development of houses called Lewington Mews was built on the old coal yard.

In 1970 concern was raised about Daddy Knight by the Trustees of the Town and Manor. Without wishing to inflict any hardship upon an old man they wished to get him off the Common before he created a precedent. However, despite the efforts of Trustees and the Council, he remained living there until March 1976 when he passed away. The caravans were dragged to a safer spot on the Common and destroyed.

Anecdotal information (from Jenny Tanner, Cliff Tanner’s wife) suggests that he did have some relations in Hungerford and my old school mate, Billy "the Banker" Blackwell, seemed to remember that he had a pet rat and that he sometimes had a visitor who lived locally. Several local boys (including me!) used to tease him and he would chase us away from his caravans .Even in the 1960s he looked old, was weather-beaten and always seemed to wear the same dark clothing and a crumpled hat. 

So Who Was Daddy Knight?

Daddy Knight, whose real name was William Charles Knight was born on 29 Jul 1898 in Hungerford. He was one of six children born to Thomas Knight and Alice Miller. His brothers were Frank T ( b.1897), George (b.1900) and Edward (b.1902) and his sisters were Emma L and Daisy(1907). His father Thomas was a general farm labourer and lived and worked on farms in Hungerford Newtown, Inkpen and Oxenwood. Thomas was born in Avebury in 1866 and his mother Alice Miller born in 1869 was a Hungerfordian. (This information came from the census returns of 1901 and 1911.) 

The 1939 Register (recorded in Sep 1939 at the outbreak of WWII) reveals that Daddy Knight was in London working as a bus driver and living with his wife (Violet) Ester. Ester (Dolden) was born on 18 Aug 1894. They married in Bethnal Green in 1940 so both bride and groom were quite elderly when they married. 

Through the London blitz, Daddy and Ester were living at 7 Cobehill Road in Teddington, Middlesex in what appears to be some sort of Salvation Army house or hostel since the other occupants were two Salvation Army Offices named Lily Gordon and Gertrude Swinfen. Violet Ester Knight died during the summer 1947, aged 53 in Hendon Middlesex. Perhaps this was when Daddy Knight returned to his roots in Hungerford?.