Family of Suffolk builder Stephen Knights speak of proud legacy in Kesgrave remembering fallen victims of R101 airship in 1930

Stephen Knights

Stephen Knights - Credit: Archant

A family in Suffolk have spoken of a member of their family’s proud legacy in Kesgrave, including in tributes to the victims of the R101 airship disaster in 1930.

Stephen Knights was a prominent builder who constructed much of the housing in old Kesgrave in the first half of the 20th Century, and was tasked with installing a part of the wreckage from an airship crash into the roof of the Holy Family and St Michael Church on Main Road.

The R101 airship, a passenger airship which crashed amid gusting winds in October 1930 en route to India, claimed the lives of all but eight men on board, including Michael Rope, in whose memory the church was built.

But as part of the work of the church’s first extension in 1955, which was required following the growth in people living in Kesgrave, Stephen Knights used part of the wreckage in the ceiling and door frame to honour Michael Rope.

Kenneth Knights, 55, the grandson of Stephen said: “My grandfather built a lot of property in Kesgrave, and must have known some of the crew of the R101 because he built parts into the structure of the church.

“It’s really nice because there is a part of the family history there.”

Stephen’s legacy remains in the town today with both Knights Lane and Stephen Road being named after him.

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Kenneth Knights added: “It’s nice to have that family history, and the Stephen Knights name is quite prominent there.”

Stephen Knights’ building work, which he conducted out of a railway carriage office in Dobbs Lane, also led to both Kenneth and his father Arthur turning to house construction themselves.

Kenneth added: “I build houses in my spare time and my dad Arthur Knights built Bracken Avenue, it was all influenced by Stephen.”

The family made headlines in September when 56 members of the Knights family gathered in Kirton, the ancestral home of Samuel Knights who was born there in 1789, and marked the first time all known Knights family members were together at the same time.

Kenneth added: “I thought the Knights name was extinct. I didn’t realise that there was the extended family so it was quite a revelation, and really nice to connect.”