Knebworth was probably first a Saxon settlement. The Domesday spelling in 1085 is Chenepeworde , meaning village on the hill . Another more romantic interpretation is Cnebba s camp suggesting that Knebworth was formerly the home of Cnebba, the fifth-century Saxon prince.
Edward the Confessor gave the Manor of Knebworth to his Thane Aschil. After the Conquest, the Manor and Fort were granted by William I to his favourite counsellor, Eudo Fitzherbert, called Dapifer from his office as Steward of the Household. During the next four hundred years Knebworth was owned by many distinguished men, Robert de Hoo, Thomas de Brotherton (a son of Edward I) and his son-in-law, Sir Walter Manny K.G., Sir John Hotoft and Sir Thomas Bourchier.
Sir John Hotoft was Treasurer of the Household of Henry VI. He built the tower of St. Mary s Church in the park and was buried there in 1443. He is of special interest in that his daughter, Agnes, married Sir Robert de Lytton, Governor of Bolsover Castle and Grand Agister of the Forests of the Peak the first connection between Knebworth and the Lyttons of Derbyshire.
In 17th February 1490, their grandson, Sir Robert Lytton, purchased Knebworth from Sir Thomas Bourchier for £800. Sir Robert fought with Henry VII at Bosworth and became Under Treasurer to the Household and a close confidant.
n about 1500, Sir Robert began to build on to the fifteenth-century gatehouse a new four-sided house enclosing a central courtyard. Successive generations up to the present have moulded the house to their own highly individual requirements, building, demolishing, redecorating but, fortunately, never entirely obliterating the taste of a predecessor.