Our History - celebrating 135 years


How it all began: Mr H.H. Knill

The formation of the partnership dates back to 25th March 1887 when Henry Hughes Knill was admitted as a fellow of the Society of Accountants and Auditors (which later merged with the ICAEW) and set up practice in Basinghall Street in the City of London.


When Henry met Ernest in 1909

Henry Knill moved to Lewes in 1909 which brought him into contact with local accountant Ernest D. James. The following year they formed Knill and James, practising from 54 High Street, Lewes.

Henry died in 1916 and six years later Ernest James was joined by C.B. James and, on Ernest’s death in 1935, by his nephew Bernard W. James.



Photo of the partners to commemorate the firm’s centenary in 1987. L-R: Roger Meyer, Graham Thompson, John Riddles, Peter Earl

The partnership grows

Over the years the firm expanded, with F.W. Jones becoming a partner in 1940 and R.A. Clark in 1950.

In 1969, John Guest and Roger Meyer became partners after a merger with John Guest & Co. They were followed by Graham Thompson in 1972, Peter Earl in 1976 and John Riddles in 1978.

In 1995 Sue Foster became the firm’s first female partner, retiring in 2021.


The current partners are: L-R Jamie Bird (partner since 2024), Chris Ketley (partner since 1988), Kirsty Wilson (partner since 2022),), David Martin (partner since 2010), Nick Rawson (partner since 1995), and Mike Chapman (partner since 2021).



Ballards Brewery, Bell Lane, in 1976

From the High Street to Bell Lane

The firm has been based in Lewes since 1909 and for nearly a hundred years the office moved steadily westwards up Lewes High Street. Having started at no. 54 it progressed to no. 56, then no. 59, eventually ending up at no. 78 in 1978.

In the mid-2000s, the decision was made to leave the High Street for more modern, open-plan offices. One Bell Lane had been built in 1982 on the site of the old Ballards Brewery for international laboratory supplies company Boehringer Mannheim, later to become Roche.

In 2007, the building was completely refurbished for Knill James with the addition of its distinctive cylindrical stairway. Since this last move, the firm has grown steadily and now has around 60 people.


One Bell Lane in 2007

135 years... and counting!

Celebrations for the firm’s centenary in 1987 consisted of a day out for the whole firm at the local Bluebell Railway, including a meal on board one of the steam trains.

Community involvement and support has always been an important part of our ethos. To mark 125 years of Knill James in 2012, the whole team spent a day volunteering at local charities.



In 2022, we celebrated our 135th anniversary with everyone in the team working for a day at one of three Sussex charities - the Lewes Railway Land Wildlife Trust, Bevern View residential care home, and the St Peter and St James Hospice distribution centre.


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