Henry Knight was an English-born builder (born in Northampton) and brick maker who arrived to Sydney with his wife Elizabeth in 1831. Ten years later, according to the 1841 Census, the Knight family, then comprising husband, wife and two young daughters, was living in the Kings Clear district near St Peters where they were operating a dairy and garden.
The ‘McDonald Town’ township was subdivided and offered for sale at Pickering’s Hotel in Newtown on Monday 13 July 1846. The sale was advertised as an opportunity for the “mechanics and industrious classes” to purchase freehold land (Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 1846, p. 4). Henry Knight purchased three large allotments from the ‘McDonald Town’ subdivision which included his brickyard and brickworks. In 1847 he built brick cottage on Knight Street as a family residence which was extended from the original two rooms to become a substantial six roomed house in the 1860s, as the family had grown to six children by this time. The Knight family moved to a new, larger family home known as Camberwell House on Rochford Street in 1879. Henry Knight died at Camberwell House in August 1887; his wife Elizabeth predeceased him by four years.
Occupation & interests
Henry Knight prospered by making bricks and from building, selling and leasing speculative properties in Erskineville, Macdonaldtown and Newtown. These included a row of rental terraces on nearby Amy Street, and a shop, post office and residence on the corner of Knight and Rochford Streets for his son, also named Henry. In 1838, Henry Knight Snr built St Peter’s Church of England (187–209 Princes Highway, St Peters) as well as Lyon’s Terrace near Hyde Park for the architect John Verge (now demolished). In 1841, he established a brick works in Macdonaldtown on 50 acres which was leased from the southern part of Nicholas Devine’s former Burren Farm estate.
Local government service
Henry Knight was elected as an alderman in the first municipal council for Newtown in February 1863, representing the Kingston Ward; he served as an alderman on this council for five years. In 1872, Henry Knight was elected the first mayor of the Borough of Macdonaldtown. Twenty years later, in 1893, Macdonaldtown was renamed as the Borough of Erskineville.
‘Biographies of the Early Aldermen’, Newtown Project website: http://www.newtownproject.com.au/local-council-info/biographies/11
Bruce Baskerville, ‘Henry Knight Brick maker of Macdonaldtown, 1840s – 1880s’, Newtown Project website: http://www.newtownproject.com.au/portfolio-items/henry-knight-brickmaker-of-macdonaldtown-1840s-1880s
‘Machine-made bricks’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 1916, p. 12 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15662438
‘First Machine-made bricks’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 April 1916, p. 4 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15655686