|Unknown Picture taken 1950s|
Rev Montague Hardwick Knott (left)
Revd Montague (Monty) Hardwick Knott
21 November 1905 – 30 January 2006
Funeral service 13 February 2006 in St Laurence, followed by burial at St Mary Virgin Churchyard, Fryerning.
Tribute by Revd. Canon Ivy Crawford (Vicar of Blackmore, 1995 to 2009), with contribution from Pam Pamplin. Text originally published on the website of the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore.
Monty was born in West Ham the eldest of three children. Monty’s father and grandfather had a Corn Chandlers business. Unfortunately it caught fire and the business was lost. The family moved and Monty attended Ruckholt Manor High School in Leyton. He left school at the age of 14. His first job was painting the black keys on pianos. Then he went to work for a city insurance firm, dressed in bowler hat, spats and fancy waistcoat.
Monty’s family were not church goers, although he used to sing in a church choir because he got paid for it. A friend invited him to the Plymouth Brethren when he was aged 17. There he met Jesus, and he met Hilda. People thought he was interested in Hilda’s niece so there was some surprise when people realised he was interested in Hilda, 20 years his senior. They married when he was 21 and they shared 40 years of marriage faithfully serving God through the life of the church. For those of you closest to him you will have observed that when Monty spoke of his beloved, his eyes would shine and it was as if he was looking beyond and seeing. He felt that they had been apart too long. Now they are united in the heavenly realms.
Monty’s worked for a time in an estate agency, accountancy, a bookshop, and when he was a door to door salesman selling hoovers, he would take his little sister with him to help win a sale. He also was a pharmaceuticals and cosmetics rep specialising in the sale of French perfumes. He became a member of the Commercial Travellers Christian Association, and was recently made a life member of the National Club of Christian Businessmen which shares premises with the Carlton Club in St James’s. During his time in Blackmore he made regular visits to his club.
Monty served in the Fourth parachute Regiment in the Second World War but was never allowed to jump, because they considered him to be too old. He joined the Scripture Gift Mission as Secretary and was seconded to lead the Gideons International organisation travelling to America, and the West Indies playing a big part in their work of getting bibles placed in hotel rooms and hospitals around the world.
“I was introduced to him when his wife was in a nursing home, then given a month, but longed to come home “to die”. They had a further two years together before she was called “Home”. He loved people and Blackmore responded. He knew not one home would close its doors to him. In these early days of his ministry, he would rise at 5am and walk round every road, praying for its residents.
“What fellowship was to be enjoyed in that home over meals, the beginning and ending of each day. The Bible was precious to us all, every question was thoughtfully answered. Now he is at “Home” with the Lord who blessed his faithful witness, and his wife whom he loved so much.”
Monty was a lay reader and with encouragement from his friend Canon Druitt went forward for ordination. In 1955 he was ordained in Chelmsford Cathedral and was Curate at St Mary’s Walthamstow, serving with Canon Druitt before moving to Blackmore in 1957 to become Vicar after a seven year interregnum. Monty said that when he came with his wife to see the parish, it was as though an inner voice said here is a task which has been saved for you. He remained Vicar of this parish until he retired in 1985. He was also Rector of Stondon Massey from 1980. He wasted no time bringing forward new initiatives. A junior church, scripture union branch and Women’s meeting began within months of his arrival. The latter would incorporate the Mothers’ Union which has been in existence in the parish for 99 years. He started a branch of the Girl Guides and would visit them at their camps.
He was radical in his thinking. He was the first Vicar to hold Barn dances in church. Some objected. When the PCC voted to replace the rush seated wooden chairs with traditional pews, Monty wrote to the then Bishop of Bradwell saying “I feel we are making a mistake”, to which the Bishop replied “this application is going to cause a lot of trouble”. In the event, the Diocesan Advisory Committee rejected the application as they couldn’t recommend the design for the pews. The present chairs were substituted for the pews. Monty sought to get the PCC to agree to the removal of the rood screen so that the stained glass window could be seen and the chancel have flexible use. He did not succeed on that, but then in 1987 God sent a flood and the new incumbent with his PCC agreed to have the screen moved and repositioned.
Monty was keen to get the church to reach out to the new community in the parish. The PCC minutes of 1967 recorded that the population had more than doubled. In 1969 a guide company was formed and a Flower Festival held. The Rose Garden of Jericho Priory was open to visitors. In 1970 a new school was opened and in 1974 close relations were fostered with the Baptist Church. With Pastor Doug Frances wonderful co-operation and joint youth work ensued. Peter Hunt was Monty’s Reader in the parish church and Peter after Monty’s retirement became Pastor of Baptist Church. Both churches maintained their identity and testimony to those who ministered at that time, dozens of the young people have kept the faith, run the race and introduced many others to Jesus.
As Monty put in when writing in the Jubilee Festival booklet in 1977:
“These are not days for stay at home church but for an outgoing, caring, holy and serving church.”
Monty as priest of our two parishes lived out the words he wrote.
Such was the respect with which he was held that when Monty celebrated 25 years as Vicar here the parishioners had a collection and raised enough money for him to visit friends he had made through his work with Gideons in the United States of America and Canada. On the evening of the presentation Revd John Fleetwood took Eamon Andrews place and sprung ‘Monty Knott: This is Your Life’ on him.
In a newspaper article written on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as Vicar here, he is recorded as saying,
“If I had to make any comment on my years here I think I would say thank you to the people of Blackmore because if I am anything of a man at all, and have been of any use here, it is entirely due to their help and the work of God”
Monty was a faithful witness. He was noted for his early morning walks around the parish. A policeman stopped him one morning to enquire what he was doing because he was wandering around the roads so early, not much looking like a vicar dressed in what was described “in his old clothes”. While the walks started as a means of guarding his health, they became prayer walks. By the end of the week he had walked along every road and prayed for every household.
Monty was a great councillor, would listen quietly to any problem and then pray with people. He made no distinction between those who went to church and those who didn’t. He spoke to everyone. He took their weddings, baptised their children, prepared the young people for confirmation, buried their grandparents, visited people who were ill or lonely, happy or sad.
He was Chair of Governors at Blackmore School, and on occasions took Religious Education lessons at Brentwood County High School leaving a lasting impression on every young life.
He loved being with the children so went on school outings. I heard of one child who wanted to walk to top of Dome in St Paul’s. So Monty said, “I’ll go”.
On his retirement the school treated Monty to a trip in a hot air balloon. Every organisation put an arrangement in church for a flower festival. Monty was so much a part of their growing up that it is difficult to think how it would have been without him. He was always part of things going on in the church and village, so much so that after his retirement he kept being invited back to events.
Stories are told of how for the annual gift day he would sit on Horsefayre Green with a bucket so people could bring their gifts of money for church funds. For the village fayres he would dress up as a Monk, At one such event he had just declared something about the glory of the Lord, when the heavens opened. I gather that it usually rained when Monty attended outdoor events, so much so that folks thought of not telling him about them!!
Monty is remembered by many for his atrocious driving - wrong side of the road stuff as well as, waving at people on both sides of the street with both hands at the same time when going through the village!!
He is also remembered for being charming with the ladies. He’d greet many with the words “How’s my favourite girl.” He obviously had lots of favourites. On the days he would take the bus into Chelmsford he would use the Moulsham Street Café and the ladies would almost fight to get buying him his coffee. When he retired he’s go on coach outings with Jericho Club.
Monty always enjoyed social occasions. He’s had plenty of practice with his regular visits to the Carlton Club premises. When Hilda died, Monty accompanied Joan Hobbs when she was Chair of Brentwood Council. The Council was involved in town twinning and Monty went on trips abroad. Monty often spoke of his forgettery. Even then his forgettery got him into some difficulties. He couldn’t remember where he was staying. Thankfully on the occasions when he would forget to turn up for services someone would run to the Vicarage to get him.
On retiring to Ingatestone he led services at St Edmunds and at St Mary’s. As the years progressed although his memory got worse and his body frail, he never wavered in his faith. Revd Frances Drake told me that when she had responsibility for Ingatestone and Fryerning during the interregnum Monty would give her a blessing when she visited him. She would kneel in humility at his feet, knowing she was kneeling before a holy man of God.
Monty touched so many lives. When every morning he would go and sit in Ravens Coffee shop, people would know they would find him there. Frances also said that when she would sit in Ravens, people would ask her what she was doing. She would reply, “Having a Monty moment”. To be available to the people was Monty’s gift. He would sit on the bench outside St Edmunds, and watch the world go by. On pension day he would call in to the United Reformed Church coffee shop and chat to all the customers. On Sundays he would walk to the Woolpack at Fryerning for lunch. He was known wherever he went. He fulfilled the promise God had given him in that hospital bed so many years earlier…
I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord”
How good it was that he had been granted such a long life in which to do just that. When he reached his 100th birthday your greetings were received with as much delight as the card from the Queen and a letter and signed photograph from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
PSALM 16 was a Psalm which Monty would quote when speaking with people. It is a beautiful example of a psalmist communing with his God. It is an outpouring of gratitude and portrays vividly the sense of contentment with his lot. Monty could align himself with the depth of relationship with God as expressed through the words.
The Psalmist cannot sufficiently express his soul-felt recognition of the fact that his happy state is due to the loving kindness of God. He contrasts this with the life those without God have. But this thought is fleeting and he quickly returns to the joyful recognition of the favour shown to him by God. His sense of gratitude is increased by the certainty that God’s loving mercy will continue and that he will be kept from all harm.
The prayer with which the psalm opens “Preserve me O God”, is for the continuance of the happy conditions in which the psalmist is living. It is the prayer of faith. The Psalmist knows it is to God alone he owes his present state.
The psalmist goes on to declare that greater than the material benefits is the spiritual blessing of God’s guidance. Monty knew God preserving him in life and guiding him in his path through life. For Monty walking with God is the fullness of joy.
On the inside cover of a Bible Monty gave to a young couple on their wedding day 46 years ago, he wrote, “Let this book be your guide through life. So shall you prosper”.
May you too allow the God who guided Monty to be your guide and constant companion now and always.