watercolourist and merchant, was born in Kensington, London, on 15 March 1809, son of William Knight, a lawyer, and Rebecca, née Talbot. He came to Van Diemen’s Land in the Hugh Crawford in 1827 to investigate the business potential of the colony, returned briefly to England, then arrived back at Hobart Town aboard the Promise , a ship he partly owned, with a cargo of general merchandise. With this he set himself up in business at the Old Wharf and subsequently became a leading merchant of Hobart Town. In 1846 he married Hannah Mary Anne, daughter of the assistant commissary-general William Fletcher, and granddaughter of Joseph Hone, master of the Supreme Court of Tasmania – a brother of the well-known London publisher William Hone. They had ten children.
Knight strongly opposed the cessation of transportation (he advocated its gradual reduction). A principal shareholder and sometime director of the Derwent & Tamar Fire, Life and Marine Assurance Company, he was also closely connected with the Australian Mutual Provident Company: its first Van Diemen’s Land agent and subsequently chairman of its Tasmanian board. In 1872 he stated that his income as agent had increased from £7 10s in the company’s first year to £700 annually. Knight died on 30 June 1877 at his home in Sandy Bay, Hobart Town. His portrait was painted in the 1840s by T.G. Wainewright .
The seven watercolour paintings Knight lent to the 1846 Hobart Town Exhibition of Paintings, Engravings, and Watercolour Drawings included Arch Island, River Huon , A Female Head , Lake on the Summit of the Calderia Mountains, St Michael’s Azores and Native Hut (1845, p.c.), the last a precisely detailed, colourful and rather naive drawing. A romantic view of the Calcutta icebound in October 1840 (apparently a copy) was shown at both the 1846 and 1858 Hobart Town exhibitions as was Garth’s Cottage, River Huon . The Allport Library and Museum holds the former as well as his sepia wash of the latter title, either the exhibit or a preliminary drawing. Miss Lucy Knight lent a portrait of Lieutenant Edward Lord by her father to the Old Hobart Exhibition in 1896 and attributed it to her father.
Of greater significance is Knight’s sketch of Melbourne from an elevated position on Collins Street looking to the west, made on his business trip there in July – August 1839. The rather crude topographic sketch, enlivened by figures of settlers, animals and a group of Aboriginals atop the rise, was printed in August 1840 as a black ink lithograph by London publisher J.[Joseph]Cross of 18 High Holborn,known for maps and guides to the Australian colonies from 1825 through the 1830s. Titled Collins Street – Town of Melbourne, Port Philip, New South Wales. E.Noyce is listed as the lithographer and 'W.Knight pinxit’ as artist. Little is known about Edward Noyce (1816-54) who was active in England from the 1c.835 to 1854 as a topographical artist, lithographer and illustrator of sheet music covers. While Elisha has been attributed to Noyce as a Christian name, this is a confusion with a contemporaneous author of illustrated technical and natural history works who appears to be Edwards’s brother Dr Elisha Noyce. Noyce’s full name appears on a few British prints and E.Noyce on several Australian and New Zealand emigration/gold rush theme prints for Bauericcher & Co, London, and two views of Adelaide in the State Library of South Australia and one of Geelong.
Knight’s lithograph version was reported as being on view 'Messrs. Kerr & Holmes, of the Book and Stationery Warehouse, Collins-street in the 'Local Intelligence’ column on page 2 of The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser on 18 March 1841. The newspaper commented that ‘The view, though it does not bear much resemblance to Collins-street now, conveys a very faithful impression of the street as it was then, and is better calculated to give a stranger an idea of the appearance of the town than any sketch that has previously come under our notice.’
Curiously, neither J. Cross or Knight appear to have promoted sales of the lithograph and few originals are extant. Perhaps Knight had a small number printed for largely personal use. A number of variants and a watercolour version exist in Australian public collections. An albumen photograph from the late 1850s by John Hunter Kerr (q.v.)in Melbourne, appears to be of the now lost sketch by Knight. The view is the earliest published of the new city.