Heraldry Windows at Chawton House Library ~ Part I: The Great Gallery

Dear Readers: Today I am posting in response to a question on Tony Grant’s post about visiting the Emma exhibition at Chawton House Library a few weeks ago. One of Tony’s pictures at the end of the post was of stained glass windows at the Library, and “Lady L” inquired about them. Tony had not seen anything about the various windows and portraits, but he confessed to be solely focused on Emma to really pay close attention. I have since discovered that all the heraldic windows are indeed explained at CHL, and that one of the Library’s many terrific volunteers has researched the history and meaning of all of them. Edward Hepper has graciously sent me his write-ups along with pictures and with his and CHL Executive Director Gillian Dow’s permission, I share this with all of you. Mr. Hepper is a long-term member of the British Heraldy Society, http://www.theheraldrysociety.com/home.htm and is quite knowledgeable on the family coats-of-arms that grace the windows of CHL – you will see some connections to Jane Austen and her family…but there is much other British history in these windows as well!


Chawton House Library

Chawton House Library

We will start today in the Great Gallery:

These three windows were commissioned by Montagu Knight from the London firm Powell, of Whitefriars. They were installed between 1910 and 1913. The first window, furthest from the Great Staircase, shows the families of the freeholders from the 11th century over the next five hundred years. They were all descendants from the de Ports, to whom William the Conqueror granted the estate, although sometimes the lack of a male heir meant that Chawton passed through the female line with a change of name and coat of arms. The last of this family was Leonard West, by whom Chawton was sold to the Arundels.

CHL - Great Gallery-1

  1. St John, successors to the DePorts
  2. St Philibert
  3. Poynings
  4. Bonville
  5. Fulford
  6. West (NB the punning ‘W’)


Within a few years, they sold to Nicholas Knight, whose son John, started to build the present house in 1583. The Knight family have held the freehold ever since – over four hundred years, although it has several times passed through the female line to other branches of the family which have had to adopt the name and arms of Knight (usually slightly differenced).

The succeeding Knights are shown in the next two windows and the dates next to their names indicate the year in which each of them succeeded to the freehold.

CHL - Great Gallery-2

  1. John Knight & Mary Neale (1583)
  2. Stephen & Richard Knight  (1620, 1637)
  3. Sir Richard Knight & Priscilla Reynolds (1641)
  4. Richard & Christopher (Martin) Knight (NB punning martins) (1679, 1687)
  5. Elizabeth (Martin) Knight & William Woodward Knight (1702)
  6. Elizabeth (Martin) Knight & Bulstrode Peachey Knight (1702) [Elizabeth Martin Knight had two husbands: William Woodward and Bulstrode Peachey (you cannot make up a name like that…)]

Here are their portraits, to put a face to a name:

Sir Richard Knight    –    Richard (Martin) Knight

Christopher (Martin) Knight  –  William Woodward

Elizabeth (Martin) Knight – Bulstrode Peachey


The third window brings us to Jane Austen territory:

CHL-Great Gallery-MonkKnight

  1. Thomas (Brodnax) Knight & Jane Monk (1637)
  2. Thomas Knight (jr) & Elizabeth Knatchbull (1781)
  3. Edward (Austen) Knight & Elizabeth Bridges (1794)
  4. Edward Knight (jr) & Mary Dorothea Knatchbull (1st wife) (1852)
  5. Edward Knight (jr) & Adela Portal (2nd wife) (1852)
  6. Montagu Knight & Florence Hardy (1879)

And their portraits:

Thomas (Brodnax) Knight  –  Jane Monk, wife of Thomas Knight (sr)

Thomas (Brodnax) Knight (jr)  – Edward (Austen) Knight (Jane Austen’s brother)

Edward Knight (jr)  –  Montagu Knight


Hearty thanks to Edward Hepper for allowing me to post on this – stay tuned for more information on the other windows … And I will be conversing with Ron Dunning to make sense of all these names and their connections to Austen – see his Jane Austen Genealogy for starters…

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photos c Edward Hepper

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