KNOLLES, Sir Robert c.1316-1407. Dulwich tenant c.1375-1398. Heading the list of Dulwich tenants in 1376 is the name of ‘Dominus Robertus Knolles’. Knolles fought at the battle of Crecy in 1346 and was knighted soon afterwards. Remaining in France as captain of one of the notorious ‘Free Companies’ after the English victory at Poitiers in 1356, Knolles and his band of 500 archers practised systematic extortion and terrorism on the civil population of the Loire Valley and Normandy and made a fortune of 100,000 crowns. He took part in the Black Prince’s successful campaign in Castile in 1367 and, nicknamed ‘The Old Brigand’, was promoted to commander of the English forces in France.
In the mid-1370s Knolles returned to England, a wealthy man, with estates in Normandy and Brittany. He also owned freehold and copyhold land in Dulwich, a manor in Norfolk and a London mansion near the Tower. In 1381 Knolles was living at his Seething Lane mansion, as the Peasants’ Revolt under Wat Tyler advanced on London. With his forces he surrounded the rebels at Smithfield, who immediately abandoned any hope of success and were led away under escort.
Towards the end of his exceptionally long life for the times (he died aged about 90), Knolles disposed of his properties in Dulwich. One of these later became known as Hall Place, at the north end of South Croxted Road, but for nearly two hundred years after his death it was known as ‘the Manor of Knolles’ or ‘Knowlis’.