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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


KNIGHT, Charles



A new biography of Knight, Charles appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Charles Knight was born in 1808 at Rye, Sussex, the youngest son of James Knight, who died shortly after his son's birth. His mother re-married and he was brought up by his stepfather. Knight graduated in medicine from Guy's Hospital, London, and afterwards visited Canada and the United States. On his return to England he decided to emigrate to Australia where his brother, William, had preceded him. In 1841 he sailed as surgeon on the Lord Glenelg which was carrying Grey out to assume the government of South Australia. Shortly after his arrival Grey gave him a position in the Colonial Secretary's Department where he became responsible for compiling the Government Blue Books and other statistical material required by the home authorities. Knight was interested in botany and accompanied the Governor on several of his explorations into the interior. In 1845, because of his experience of government finance and official routine, Grey brought him to New Zealand where he became Auditor-General in February 1846. This position terminated with the granting of responsible government, and in 1856 Knight was appointed to manage the Colonial Bank of Issue. In 1858 he returned to his position as Auditor to the General Government. He investigated the charges against Macandrew in 1861; and, two years later, sat on the Commission concerned with the development of flax processing. For a short time after the capital had moved to Wellington in 1865, Knight remained in Auckland as the General Government Agent. He was chairman of the Commission on the Civil Service (1866); and in 1867 brought the Post Office money-order and savings bank scheme into operation. In 1869 he accompanied Vogel to Australia to negotiate the mail and customs agreement; and on his return became a member of the Board of Advice set up by the Government Annuities Act. He was appointed Auditor-General in 1871 and, two years later, a Commissioner of the Board of Audit – which position he shared with J. E. FitzGerald. In 1878 he retired from the Government service and lived in Wellington until his death on 3 September 1891.

In his day Knight was well known as a botanist – his specialty being lichens. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society, of the New Zealand Institute, and president of the Wellington Philosophical Society.

In 1844, at Adelaide, South Australia, Knight married Caroline Symes. He left two sons and three daughters.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Evening Post, 3 Sep 1891 (Obit)
  • New Zealand Times, 4 Sep 1891 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.