Sir John Knill Elected Master Plumber and Lord Mayor of London – in 1909

City News Company News

At this time of year as we look forward to the installation of our next Master and the Lord Mayor, you might be interested to see a fascinating piece of company history.

110 years ago Alderman Sir John Knill, Bt was elected to be Master Plumber having previously served as Master Plumber in 1902/1903 and 1903/1904. He was also elected to serve concurrently as the Lord Mayor of the City of London, following in his father’s footsteps for both appointments, who served as Master Plumber in 3 consecutive years from 1892/1893 to 1894/1895 and Lord Mayor in 1892/1893.


The caption in the article above reads:


“This year’s Lord Mayor’s Show was memorable in that it struck a new note and established a new precedent for the historic procession. With admirable judgement and foresight, the new Lord Mayor, Sir John Knill, changed it from a theatrical and circus-like spectacle into a patriotic pageant worthy of the dignity of the greatest city in the world. Instead of the old allegorical cars, with all their paraphernalia of wigs and tinsel, the procession was mainly of a military character. Fifteen hundred Territorials marched through the streets, followed by the City of London Yeomanry, and detachments of sailors, Boy Scouts, lads from the Gordon Boys’ Orphanage, and carriages containing severn veterans who were in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.   Another new and most popular feature of the show was the feminine element introduced by the Lady Mayoress and her white clad Maids of Honour.  Sir John Knill’s year of office is likely also to be memorable in another respect, for he has a scheme in hand for reviving the excellent old system of apprenticeships, which he considers would largely remedy the present state of unemployment, by enabling lads to learn a skilled trade, instead of becoming errand or van boys, on leaving school, for the sake of an immediate wage, and dropping out when they grow up, to swell the ranks of the unemployed.”

KNILL Maids of Honour

The Knill Baronetcy, of The Grove, Blackheath and Fresh Wharf, was created on 11 August 1893 for Stuart Knill, Sir John’s father and 1st Baronet, to celebrate the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York . Sir Stuart was the first Roman Catholic Lord Mayor of City of London and created quite a stir by abstaining from attending official services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and other churches of the Establishment while in office.  He created another stir at a Mansion House banquet  in 1893. It was an exclusively Catholic gathering, but he got into trouble with the Corporation and others for proposing as the first toast “The Holy Father, and the Queen.”  His explanation that it was the usual Catholic formula – equivalent to the time-honoured toast “Church and Queen ” – was eventually accepted.  John Knill, 2nd Baronet, was born on 4 September 1856 and died aged 77 on 26 March 1934. He succeeded as the 2nd Baronet Knill on 19 November 1898. He was Lieutenant of the City of London between 1897 and 1931, held the office of Sheriff of London between 1903 and 1904 and served as Alderman for Bridge Ward Within.

I am most grateful to Past Steward John Carnaby for this excellent piece of history on our company and for forwarding the article and pictures for the website.

Paul Nash