Peter Knee coined the phrase ‘cradle’ as it appears that the first recorded Knees emerged from this once large village which sits at the foot of the Wiltshire Downs.
Robert Knee b 1548 appears to be the first recorded name and I have traced my line back to him, – as no doubt could many others. I have just recorded all the data from the Bromham parish register of 1566-1700 (from a copy, randomly found in Bath Central Library) and will try to fit the early family tree together.
How Robert Knee came to be in Bromham and whether he was the first to settle there, are the usual tantalising questions, that will no doubt prove exceedingly difficult if not impossible to crack.
The village of Bromham in Wiltshire is where the quest for the more ancient bearers of the name Knee ends but in some senses begins. What follows can only be described as informed speculation.
The period of assigning surnames seems to run from The Norman Conquest in 1066 to the 15th Century. For a host of reasons, many of which relate to the need to organise both economic and military activity, surnames became useful. In the weaving industry one can imagine that a more collective organisation of activity would require surnames and these would be linked to the skill with which you were associated. e.g. knee carders, weavers (webb).
In the 15th Century, Bromham was a large village that had become a centre for weaving. Above the village, the chalk down land was ideal for grazing sheep. Below the village – for it stands on a step, the valley of the Avon and the plentiful water supply that is needed for purification. In the woods around Chittoe (a celtic word for woodland) grew the teasels needed for raising the nap on the woven cloth before shearing or cutting. The sandy soils surrounding the village had supported the growth of Broom (hence Bromham, home of Broom and a bright yellow for the dyers) and provided ideal ground for growing vegetables. Good routes led East to West and North to South.
Such favourable aspects had attracted others before. King William gave Bromham to Battle Abbey near Hastings as a penance, required by the Pope, to atone for the slaughter resulting from the Conquest. It must have been a worthy gift.
The Romans recognised the quality of the location and built a town, Verlucio, in the area. Iron Age tribes built a fort on the hill behind the village. Even further back into the mists of time the Neolithic folk (c 3000 BCE) had made the area their epicentre for ceremonial construction, represented by the nearby monuments at Silbury Hill, Avebury and of course, Stonehenge.
Perhaps many of the newly named in Bromham had already been in the area for millenia.
‘John Knee of Bromham‘ a Billman in the militia in the Calne Hundred 1529
and from Parish records:
John Knee married Joanne Hobbs in Bromham, Wilts in 1575. They had 2 children, Joseph (b1580) and John (1588)
William Knee married Alice Condry in Bromham, Wilts in 1580.
Robert Knee was born in Bromham in 1548. He married Margery in 1593 at All Cannings, Wilts.
Richard Knee was born in Chester in 1567 and Thomas Knee married Ayles in 1574 in Painswick, Gloucestershire – both places known to have weaving industry which supports the suggestion that Knees may have migrated to these areas to sell their weaving or carding skills.