Harding Laity explains Knills Ceremony
In his will Knill left money for the upkeep of his obelisk and also £25 for celebrations to take place every five years on St James’ Day, 25 July. He directed that every five years £10 should be expended on a dinner, and that ten young girls dressed in white should walk in procession with music, from the market house to the monument, around which the whole party was to dance singing the hundredth psalm (All people that on earth do dwell). This quintennial commemoration is made the occasion for a good deal of jollity, in which the entire population joins, indeed the whole proceeding is quite mirth-provoking; nor is the least laughable part of it the looks on the faces of the vicar and mayor, as they sedately waltz around on the upper step of the monument, hand in hand with the ten young girls. The first ceremony, in which Knill himself participated, took place in 1801.
The £25 was to be spent thus:-
£10 for a dinner for the Trustees, who are the Mayor, Vicar, and Customs Officer, and two guests each. This to take place at the George and Dragon Inn, Market Place, St Ives.
£5 to ten young girls who have to be the daughters of either fishermen, tinners, or seamen.
£1 to the fiddler.
£2 to two widows.
£5 to the man and wife, widower or widow who shall raise the greatest family of legitimate children who have reached the age of ten years.
£1 for white ribbon for breast knots.
£1 to be set aside for a vellum book for the Clerk to the Trustees to record the proceedings.
It has been surmised that the building of the monument followed a pamphlet Knill allegedly authored castigating the repeated use of consecrated ground for burial, which mirrored a contemporary minor philosophical movement. Certainly, the parish church nearest to Knill’s residence (St Ia) has, in modern times, a greatly raised churchyard partly as a result of this practice, being over seven feet higher than the pavements and walkways which lead around it. However, Knill’s work and official appointments led him away from St Ives and his intended mausoleum, and his philosophical rapprochement with ecclesiastical interment may or may not have occurred. Knill was buried in St Andrew’s Church, Holborn in 1811.