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Knowles family get-together results in book charting its role in Kent life over 800 years

By John Nurden

What began as a family get-together has ended up as a book on one of Kent’s oldest families.

The Knowles family can be traced back to 1270 when Henry III was on the throne.

Its members include Douglas Knowles who was chairman of Sittingbourne Urban District Council and Gordon, Eric and Ivan Knowles who ran K’s Casinos in Sheerness and Whitstable.

Douglas Knowles, who chaired Sittingbourne Urban District Council
Douglas Knowles, who chaired Sittingbourne Urban District Council

As council chairman, postmaster Douglas read the proclamation of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II from the steps of Sittingbourne Town Hall in 1952.

He was born on Christmas Day 1900 and was the fourth child of Horace and Matilda Knowles. They lived above the family shop and Post Office at 56-60 High Street, Milton.

The shop had been run by the Knowles for three generations, starting with Douglas’s grandfather Edward in 1864 and then his dad in 1918.

A newspaper article about the end of an era at Milton Post Office, which the Knowles family ran for many years
A newspaper article about the end of an era at Milton Post Office, which the Knowles family ran for many years

In 1926, Douglas married Doris Dodd. She worked at Ridham Dock during the First World War. In 1934, Douglas took over the Post Office and moved it across the road to number 77 which had been built in the reign of James I for a silk merchant.

Douglas was a Milton Regis Bowling Club member and was president when he died in 1989.

In his 20s, he was in Milton Fire Brigade and served on the Local Education Committee helping appoint head teachers.

He also helped kickstart the renovation of Milton’s Old Court Hall.

His niece Jill Clowes inherited Milton’s original post horn and oak writing desk used at the Post Office. His cousin Harry Knowles was Mayor of Faversham at the same time.

Douglas and Doris retired to a bungalow near the Gore Court Arms in Sittingbourne. After Doris died in 1982, Douglas moved into a retirement home in Herne Bay.

Part of the front cover of the book entitled The Knowles Family
Part of the front cover of the book entitled The Knowles Family

Another of the Knowles family, Eric, was born in Dover on November 5, 1915. He helped to run his dad Charlie’s fruit shop with his brother Gordon in Whitstable. At 12, Eric regularly drove the family’s lorries. The brothers branched out from fruit shops to fruit machines and formed Coinmatics. They bought 11 Neptune Terrace, Sheerness, in the 1950s and opened K’s Kasino.

Eric, who died in 2006, also raced motorbikes and held the Sheppey grass-track record. He also owned two Rolls-Royces and a Harley-Davidson motorbike.

He was life president of Sittingbourne Motor Cycle Club.

  • The Knowles Family book, written by Edward Knowles, Jill Clowes, Ivan Knowles, Barry Knowles, Patrick Knowles and the now-deceased William Knowles and Muriel Dell, is available on Amazon for £7.99.

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