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Most people were unaware of many of these events, nor were they even likely to be aware of time itself.  People of this age probably were unaware of the century in which they lived.  Life still revolved around the seasons, and mechanical clocks, such as they were, were not available for general use.  The impact of anything that was happening in the country probably had little effect upon people of this time.


In 1208, Pope Innocent III placed an interdict on England because of a dispute with King John over the election of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  John seized church property and committed other acts of defiance, and the pope excommunicated him.  This had dire consequences for his subjects as they were not allowed the sacraments of the church. He eventually made peace with the pope, but his tyranny caused extreme discontent in his subjects.  In 1215, John, lacking support, met the English barons at Runnymede and was forced to place his seal on Magna Carta, a document that redressed wrongs, the principles of which have not changed to this day.















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The East Midlands Keeps

Continuing the Walter Kep Line to the branch in the East Midlands

 The Century of Walter Kep

Walter Kep, the ancestor of John Keep, was born in Astwood, Buckinghamshire, England, about 1230.  Astwood, a tiny hamlet, is some 60 miles northwest of London.


While we know little about John Keep of Longmeadow, we know even less about Walter.  Colonial History on this website tells us that John owned land because town records exist that show it.  We don't know if Walter owned land or what if any business he was in.  We do know that John held some town posts, but at this point we don't know if Walter did or not.  We also have a record of John's estate at death, but we don't know such things about Walter.  There is evidence, scant right now, that he may have enjoyed a situation above the average.  At least we can hope so.


That little is known is no surprise because Walter lived over twice as far back in time as John.  John lived about 350 years ago, but Walter lived nearly 800 years in the past.  We do know that the 13th century was a remarkable one because the world was awakening from many centuries of lethargy and thoughtless minds.  However, the Dark Ages could not be terminated all at once; ignorance and wars continued, the Inquisition began in earnest, most people lived in shocking conditions, and medical knowledge and practice would try our credibility.


The following is provided to place the time in which Walter lived.  It is not an attempt to present a history of the 13th century, but to remind readers of selected events of that century that may be recognized.


Walter was born at the outset of the Late Middle Ages within the loose boundaries of Medieval times.  The 6th Crusade had ended, and he probably lived through the end of the 7th.  Magna Carta had been sealed by King John only 15 years earlier.  Henry III, who probably outlived Walter, had recently declared himself of age to rule England.  Robin Hood lived during Walter's lifetime.  Waterwheels had only been in use in England 200 years or so, and the Windmill had been introduced only 150 years before; but besides these, no inventions of much note had been made for a thousand years.

The ordinary family probably had a house of thatch, mud, and dirty brown wood.  Outside would be found the ignored refuse of domestic animals, and these animals were also kept in part of the building, including a pigpen and places for chickens and cattle. The inside of the house was all soot.  The floor of the living area was made of dirt and rush that was simply added to periodically but not cleaned out.  Consequently they were unspeakably filthy.  Personal hygiene was not attended to.


In good years, food was plentiful, consisting usually at least of pork sausage, a lot of black bread, and soup made with whatever was available from vegetables and leftovers.  They drank beer and very little if any water because it was often unfit.  The beer was flat and tasteless, made without hops.  Flavorings were added.

People at that time were generally small, whatever their situation in life, probably little over 5 feet tall.  Many people died before age 30 usually from disease, and everyone looked very old for their age.  The death due to childbirth was terribly high. Clothing may have been from woven wool for the more fortunate; otherwise animal skins were used.  Few people had a change of clothing and it was consequently unclean.


Medical help was available, but of questionable value.  Physicians believed that a red curtain draped around a couch would cure smallpox, heart palpitations could be cured by carrying a piece of coral in the mouth, some medicines would work only if boiled in the skin of puppies and, if liquid, were drunk from a church bell, and donkey hoofs attached to the leg could cure gout.  Even Roger Bacon, now considered one of the leading advocates of modern scientific method at that time, believed that most ailments came from God and shouldn't be interfered with.

But the 13th century saw some awakening in the minds of the people.  Colored cloth began to be used in clothing again. The science of Plato, Euclid, Aristotle, and Pythagoras were rediscovered because of Englishmen like Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste and the rebirth of the scientific method.  It was a time of greatness that stood out from the surrounding darkness:  Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus in philosophy; Giotto in painting; Innocent III as pope; and Guy of Montpellier with his hospitals of the Holy Ghost with ideas that must have had an effect upon those at St. Thomas's, St. Bartholomew's, Bethlehem (Bedlem), and Christ's Hospitals in England.


Buildings in cities began to be more spacious and with larger windows for increased light and ventilation. There was more often than not running water available for general use and to carry sewage away.  

Roger Bacon

There is some evidence that Walter's situation may have been above average because his close descendants appear to have had an elevated station in life.  It can only be hoped that Walter and his family were among those who were considered more fortunate.  All of us who are his descendants have to feel very fortunate indeed that the poor chances for survival fell favorably on Walter and his family.


The following is interesting because not a great deal is known about the Estwode (Astwood) of that time, and more so because it mentions Walter Kep's grandchild, Roger Kepe.  It is about Tickford Priory which relates to Astwood as demonstrated by the Calendar of Patent Rolls dated 14 Oct 1351 Westminster:  “Presentation pf Roger Kepe of Estwode, chaplain, to the vicarage of the church of Estwode, in the diocese of Lincoln, in the king’s gift by reason of the priory of Tikford in his hands as above.”

Tickford Priory was founded circa 1140 by Fulk Paganel and is thought to be the earliest of all the Buckinghamshire priories.  It was a cell of the Cluniac Abbey of Marmoutier at Tours with most of its sixteen monks recruited from France.  As an alien monastery it suffered when war broke out with France during the reigns of Edward III and Richard II, and all its income was seized by the crown.  It also suffered from poor management and scandal.  In 1275, Simon de Reda became the prior, and was excommunicated for his excesses, but later reinstated. He was deposed in 1291 on the charges of "waste of goods, evil living and homicide."

Mandy Barrow,  
Henry III succeeded John and commenced about fifty years of favoritism and misrule once again causing the rebellion of barons and knights.  This resulted in an advancement of democratic rule between 1258 and 1265 when for the first time the middle class was given representation in the great council, or Parliament.  Though not lasting, it was a basis for democratic rule in England.

Early in the 13th century, the Dominican and Franciscan friars arrived in England, the Dominicans to preach and the Franciscans to serve, and they flourished.  The works of Aristotle were still forbidden by the church until 1231 when permitted for use in universities. It was a time of a new movement in church architecture to separate it from the French by the creation of the New English, a much more delicate form that can be seen in slender and soaring piers, and the pointed arch in place of the Norman semicircle.   Flying buttresses were introduced.  Salisbury Cathedral, one of the most beautiful, was begun in 1220 and completed in just 35 years except for the tower and spire.

The Naval Battles of Damme (1213) and Sandwich (1217) marked the turning point in the way England was defended at sea, and are considered by some to provide the seed that became the Royal Navy.  Up to this time, the way that the Island was defended when an enemy fleet was detected was to have defending ships sail to where the landings were to take place and contest the invaders there. In the case of Damme, English ships attacked the French before they left their port; and off Sandwich, the French ships were attacked in mid-channel.  This forcefulness became the standard for the Royal Navy and has continued down through time.


The following is not meant to describe the conditions under which Walter lived, which are unknown to us, but it certainly depicts what he observed. It can be assumed that the wealthy lived comfortable lives, as comfort was defined at that time.  History tells us that those of less fortunate means generally had adequate food in times of plenty, and survived in times of crop failures.  If he belonged to a guild, if accessible near Astwood, his situation would have been better.

Dr. Philip Keep traced the family line back to Walter Keep born about 1230 in Astwood in Buckinghamshire. The village is situated on the Buckinghamshire/Northamptonshire border, and its name is derived from the Anglo Saxon” Estwode” or “East Wood”. The Keeps remained in the village for several generations. Walter’s grandson Roger, born  about 1325 was the Vicar of the Parish Church of St. Peter Astwood from 1351 to 1353. The Calendar of Patent Rolls dated 14 October 1351, Westminster: stated:

Presentation of Roger Kepe of Estwode, chaplain, to the vicarage of the church of Estwode, in the diocese of Lincoln, in the king’s gift by reason of the priory of Tikford in his hands as above.

The church stands at the west end of the village, and the north, south and east walls of the Nave are believed to date from the late 12th or early 13th century.above.

In the south-east window sill of the chancel there is a piscina, a stone basin with a drain, used by the priests to rinse their hands during mass, dating from the 14th century. There is a second one in the south aisle at the east end of the south wall, with a circular basin, chamfered jambs, and a trefoiled head, also of the 14th century, which Roger may well have used during his tenure at the church.

Click here for the East Midlands Keeps, which continues the Walter Keep Line in that area. 
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