Thomas Knowlton was born in Kent, England and was well known in his lifetime as a botanist and gardener with a special interest in nature, wildflowers and hothouse exotics. He was in charge of the botanic garden of the physician James Sherand at Eltham, Kent and in 1726 he moved to Londesborough, East Yorkshire, England to work for the 3rd Earl of Burlington. It seems that Knowlton spent the rest of his working life as head gardener at Londesborough.
Knowlton was greatly interested in the latest information about the natural world, both native and foreign. He travelled to Guernsey, Holland and London, England and shared his botanical and gardening knowledge with other plant collectors. While he was in charge at Londesborough he also acted as an advisor at other local English estates, such as Everingham, Burton Constable and Birdsall, located in East and North Yorkshire. His additional earnings enabled him to invest in property, literary collections and botanical purchases.
Knowlton's expertise in exotics also enabled him to gain prominence within the landowning elite. Indeed, he was responsible for building the hothouses at Londesborough (1729) and Burton Constable (1758).
Knowlton died aged 90, in 1781 and was buried in the churchyard at Londesborough.
Henry, B No Ordinary Gardener: Thomas Knowlton, 1691-1781 (1986)
Seccombe, T., ‘Knowlton, Thomas (1691–1781)’, rev. P. E. Kell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15777 > [accessed 27 February 2008]