Thomas Knipe

In the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a large tablet in memory of the Reverend Dr Thomas Knipe (d.1711), Head Master of Westminster School and Prebendary of Westminster. He was probably the son of the Reverend Thomas Knipe and Anne his wife and grandson of Christopher Knipe, citizen and haberdasher of London.

Dr Thomas is buried in the north cloister of the Abbey with his two wives, Anne (died 1685, a granddaughter of Sir Thomas Worseley and sister of Helen, wife of Bishop Thomas Sprat) and widow Alice Talbot (d.1723). His sister Mary (d.1685) and brother Christopher (died 1673 while a pupil at the School) are also buried there. The gravestone inscription is no longer readable but the following was recorded in a book published in 1723 for infant sons of Dr Thomas and his first wife:

Here lies the bodies of three sons of Mr Thomas Knipe. The first Thomas who died 24th of Feb. 1670 being six days old. The second also Thomas who died 2nd of Nov. 1674 being a year and nine months old. The third Gilbert Knipe who died 25 of Jan. 1677 being eight months old. And with them Mrs Anne Knipe who died 24th of August 1685.

He was educated at Westminster School and succeeded Dr Busby as Head Master. In 1707 he was installed a prebendary at the Abbey. The Latin inscription on his monument can be translated:

Thomas Knipe, D.D., Prebendary of this Church, gave direction that his body should lie in that part of the cloisters opposite to this monument, where Anne his wife, with five of their children, were buried. For the space of fifty years he, in the School of Westminster, laboured for the promoting of piety and learning, and for sixteen years was head master there, which province he happily administered being deeply acquainted with the helps of learning practised to indefatigable industry, and made up of the most humane sweetness; from hence he supplied the University with youth versed in the best discipline; many of which are now ornaments in the Church and State: and more there are who now give earnest of being hereafter so. To these praises he added those other virtues, which speak the good man, as piety and munificence, socialness and sincerity, and ready bounty to those in distress. He enjoyed a firm health and long age, attended with all the other comforts of life, till decaying gradually, by a lingering distemper, which at length violently increasing upon him, he died beloved by the poor, his scholars, friends, relations and wife 8 Id. August [6 August] Anno 1711, aged 73. To this dear husband, Alice, his second and most afflicted wife, hath erected this monument, one day intending that her ashes shall rest in the same tomb.

The tablet includes the Knipe coat of arms "gules, two bars and in chief three wolves' heads, all argent, an escutcheon of pretence gules, a talbot passant argent" (ie. a red shield with two silver bars and three silver wolves' heads at the top and a red shield with a silver dog on it in the centre), together with the arms of his wives.

Only two of his children reached maturity: Anne d.1703, married Michael Arnold (children were Alicia and Michael) and Richard (1669-1703) buried together in the cloister. Richard was educated at the School and became High Bailiff of the City of Westminster and is buried with his wife Elizabeth and several children in the cloister (their children who reached maturity were Richard who died unmarried in 1736 and was Vicar of Bexley in Kent and a chaplain to the King, Thomas [d.1749] also a clergyman, and Anne who married Thomas Done). 

John and Robert Knipe

Below Thomas' monument is a small tablet to John and Robert Knipe, although neither are buried here. They appear to have been brothers of the Reverend Randolph Knipe (a son of Robert Knipe), who erected the memorial. The inscription reads:

In memory of two brothers, who both died in the service of their country. Capt.John Knipe, 90th regiment at Gibraltar; October 25th 1798, in the 22nd year of his Age. Capt. Robert Knipe, 14th Lt. Dragoons, at Villa Formosa; May 17th 1811, aged 32. To the former, as a small tribute to his high military character, and many amiable virtues, his brother officers have long since at that garrison, erected a monument at their private expence. The latter having most signally distinguished himself, and severely suffered in many preceding actions, was mortally wounded at the battle of Fuentes de Mora in Portugal, on the 5th May, and to the deep regret of his brother soldiers, his family, and many friends, expired on the 17th following.

Charles Knipe (d.1717), a son of Edward (uncle of Dr Thomas), married Jane Needham, a daughter of the Abbey's Receiver General, in the Abbey in 1682 but neither are buried here.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The will of Dr Thomas Knipe, and many of the family, are at The National Archives and copies can be ordered from them


6th August 1711




Cloisters; South Choir Aisle; North Cloister

Memorial Type

Grave; tablet

Thomas Knipe
Reverend. Dr Thomas Knipe

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Thomas Knipe
Thomas Knipe memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Thomas Knipe
Memorial to John and Robert Knipe

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster