A person who deserves greater recognition for her work in Henfield is Miss Margaret Knowles of Henfield Place. She gave a large tract of land, part of the garden of her house, to the village to be used as a recreational area for the children of the village. The gift was to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935, and was therefore known as the King’s Field (next to the sports centre). An oak tree was planted in memory of the gift, but was unfortunately felled during the building of Northcroft. The land originally bounded Upper Station Rd, but in the 1960s houses were built along the road and additional land was acquired at the side to compensate. There is now no recognition of her gift to the village.
Miss Knowles was born in London to a Charles Julius Kino on 22nd May 1877. Family tradition gives his birthplace as Russia, coming to England during the 1870s. He married Louisa Essinger in London in 1874. The 1881 census shows them living in Edinburgh Terrace, London. Margaret had 2 siblings, Hugh C, and Guy J. F. Guy was a civil engineer who started a motor vehicle company with Lucien Legros, the son of the artist Alphonse Legros. They produced the ‘Iris’ car, which in early days at least was described as ‘cumbersome and slow’ with a slow revving engine and was nicknamed the ‘Old Buggerinas’.
Charles Kino is recorded as a tailor and woollen Warehouseman. By 1891 the family name changes to Knowles. It would seem that Charles also indulged in property development in London and built 7 blocks of apartments on Prince of Wales Drive, possibly with Lord Battersea.
He began collecting artwork and became friendly with 2 artists: Whistler and Rodin, Guy as a child would play with clay in Rodin’s studio. After Charles died, his wife Louisa developed an infatuation with Rodin and commissioned a cast of Rodin’s “Brother and Sister” for her son Guy in March 1903.
When Charles Knowles died he left his son Hugh £1.2M and his son Guy £400,000. It is interesting to note that before his death he brought Linkenholt Manor in Hampshire, including the whole village. Margaret was left several endowments and large sums of money.
It is believed that Margaret came to Henfield Place in 1913. In 1939 at the start of the war, she allowed Henfield Place to become the ‘Henfield Central Hospital Supply Depot’. From 1939 – 1945, 8448 garments were sewn in various workshops and sent to Henfield Place to be packed and sent to P.O.Ws, Emergency Maternity Hospitals, people blitzed and liberated captives. Also, due to the dedicated home knitters, 3272 knitted garments were sent to British and Allied Forces; the final total of work reached 13,022, all being packed and sent from Henfield. All local men were given Christmas parcels. Proudly no man was forgotten.
Henfield Central Supply Depot provided garments and bandages to Shermanbury Grange Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Margaret Knowles was the driving force behind an organisation called the Girls Friendly Society (GFS) in Henfield. The GFS was a national girls organisation founded in 1875. It was originally set up to help young girls/women who left home in the country to work in towns and cities, and who very often had no friends or family and were extremely vulnerable. The Society’s aim was to befriend and mentor these girls. In 1880, the Society had 40,000 members and provided lodges which offered cheap good quality accommodation for young women working in domestic service or mill and factory workers.
During the war years the Henfield GFS threw itself into the war effort raising money for, amongst others, the White Horse Club for boys and girls in London; another was to provide housecraft training for 16 - 18 year old girls. The GFS carried on after the war and was active into the 1960’s and became a youth club for young girls.
All in all, Miss Margaret Knowles gave a lot to the village both in time and money; next time you walk through the Kings Field to the Leisure Centre or go and play tennis or football, have a thought for this kind person.
Margaret’s sister Kate Christine Knowles set up the ‘Forget me not’ League, originally set up to send books and games to captured allied servicemen, but it developed into giving parcels of toiletries, shaving equipment and small luxuries. To join the League you paid a fee of 1s (5p) and then undertook to raise money by organising dances, whist drives, etc. When you raised 20s (£1) you were awarded the Forget-me-not medal. Margaret died on 25th January 1947, leaving around £300,000 (equivalent to almost £12 million in 2019). It is interesting to note that the village that Kate lived in named a road after her – Knowles Walk; and Henfield named a road after Margaret – Knowles Close.
It is not known why Charles Kino changed his name and why he chose Knowles, but it is known that Henfield is better off for having had such a kindly benefactor and friend.
By Steve Robotham (Assistant Curator) with thanks to Maureen Fletcher and Adrian Vieler (researchers), first published in the Henfield Parish Magazine, June 2019. Iris car image added 2020.