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Back to Walter Keep, English History  

Continued from Walter Kep English History Page

The East Midland Keeps

During the fifth generation, John Keep and his wife Alice moved from Astwood to Bozeat, Northamptonshire. The village was originally known as Bosgate, which meant Bosa’s gate. Bosa was a common Saxon name and a Saxon Earl Bosa held land nearby. Following the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror gave most of the land to his niece Judith, who became the first Countess of Northampton, and married Earl Walthe of the powerful Saxon Earl of Northumbria.

John and Alice had two sons.  The youngest, William Keep, was born about 1380 in Bozeat. William was the Vicar of Grendon Northamptonshire, a nearby village from 1408 to 1439. St Mary's Church, Grendon, still has the remains of two rounded arches, which formed part of the original 12th century building. William was closely associated to William Wulston the Lord of the Manor of neighbouring Wollaston, and the Manor Roll dated 26 December 1426 show that William Keep presided over the session of the Manor Court in Wulston’s absence:

The Register of William Wulston View with court of William Kepe and other feoffees of the Manor of William Wulston held on the day next before the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostile in the fifth year of the reign of King Henry the Sixth (26 December 1426) – Extracts from the text: “Thomas Joynor alleges that John Toyton is unlawfully keeping a shield, valued at 3s, which he has taken from John, a servant of William Wulston, and which he has been promised to Tomas Joynor. John Toyton denies that he has been keeping the shield and the court decided to investigate further. Richard Mace and Robert Adecok hold the combined tithingmen and ale-tasters. Simon Goldsmyth of London, Elizabeth Art, and Thomas Puddle did not attend court and were each fined 4d. (Simon Goldsmyth   owed suit because he was heir to land that had belonged to William Reynoldyn) Martilda Ingland, William Mace, John Smyth, Reginald Smyth, Simon Judde, Thomas Joynor, Reginald Art, Robert Adecok, Thomas Deyne, Peter Syward and John Pakke are each find 12d for breaking the assize of beer. John Puddle, Simon Rudde, William Mace and Reginald Art are fined 2d and 3d for leaving manure, hay and seed on the road. Reginald Smyth is fined 4d for not repairing his house and croft-hedges: he has also enclosed some of John Taillor’s garden. William Lytilbury’s house is described as ruinous he is bound over to repair it before the next court or forfeit 3s 4d. John Gyles has a serious argument with William Goldsmyth which has lead to blows and the drawing of blood. They were each fined 2d for making an affray and breaking the peace. William Smyth and. Robert Galp are fined 4d for trespass.

The name Wollaston is derived from the Saxon "Wulfaf's Town" after a Saxon chief Wulflaf. Remains of a large Romano British vineyard, 35 hectares, have been found in the village, together with the discovery of a Saxon iron helmet in a warrior’s grave dating from around 700 AD. The oldest visible part of the village is Beacon Hill, an ancient castle earthwork or burial mound. The mound was originally surrounded by a great ditch which dates back to the 12th century.


By the eighth generation, William Keep and his wife Katherine moved from Bozeat to Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The town is situated on a hill adjacent to rich ironstone beds and close to the junction of the Rivers Ise and Nene or “Nen” as it is locally pronounced. The town dates from the sixth century, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name of Wendelburie. The name is formed from elements which translate, roughly, as "the town of the people of Waendel", or Waendel-ingas-burgh, and not as many believe from the five wells that are found around the town; Red Well, Hemming Well, Stanwell, Lady's Well, and Whyte Well. The name Wendel is possibly from a Germanic name meaning "a Wend", a Slavic people living between the Elbe and the Ober. William and Katherine Keep’s son William was born about 1450 and married Elizabeth Alyn of Grendon in 1474 in Wellingborough. During their lifetime, the family moved to Stanwick, and Ecton both in Northamptonshire.

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By the eleventh generation, John Keep of Stanwick moved to the nearby Higham Ferrers. The town is the birthplace of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1414 to 1443, and founder of All Souls College, Oxford. He also founded Chichele College in the 15th century in the centre of Higham Ferrers.

Nicholas Keep, son of Richard, born in 1577 at Higham Ferrers, married Grace Poley on 10 June 1602 at Higham Ferrers, and they moved to Broughton, Northamptonshire, where Grace was buried on 1 July 1637. Broughton dates back to the Anglo-Saxon times, if not earlier, and the suffix "ton" means a settlement originating in the Dark Ages. The village is referred to as "Burtone" in the Domesday Book belonging to the Countess Judith, William the Conqueror’s niece, and was inhabited by three freemen, four villains and five smallholders.

Thomas Kepe of Ecton, Northamptonshire was a husbandman, i.e. a farmer. He died in 1593 and in his will he left five shillings to each of his children; John, Francis, Augustine, Elizabeth, and Lucy when they became 18 years old. His wife Anne (nee Corye) died in 1621, and her will provides an interesting insight into the family:  

to son Augustine of Walgrave £1, and to Thomas his sob 2/6d and to Sarah his daughter 2/6d within 1 year after my decease to son John of Floore 10/=, and to his wife 1/= within 6 months after my decease to son Francis of London 1/=, & to his wife 6d, about a month after my decease, to Anne Henheman of Northampton 1 ewe sheep 4 weeks after my decease to son Edward Perkins of Broughton Northants 6d to daughter Elizabeth Perkins his wife 6d within 5 months after my decease Residue to son Nathantell Sutton who I make Executor Wits George Campion Rector Sywell, Thomas Andrew & Willm Basse Debts due to me: - My son Edward Perkins of Broughton is indebted to me for keeping his daughter Ellen Elson, ever since the ½ year & a half the which I am supposed to have according to certain articles drawn between us. The said Edward Perkins should provide for the first 6 years, a upper cloak for his daughter Ellen Elson, against Whitsondaye according to articles drawn up between us, I do show I never received but one, he is indebted to me for 5 upper cloaks, & whereas I was to receive 2 strikes of millcorn, I never received but one. He also oweth me £2 which should have paid me long before, upon a bond of a greater summer, which is unpaid for the bringing up of his daughter Ellen Elson.


Stanwick pronounced with a silent “w”, has been a settlement since the beginning of the Iron Age (5BC). In the 10th century it was known as "Stan Wigga", and in the Domesday Survey of 1086 it is referred to as "Stanwige" or "Stanwica". Later it was mentioned in the 1137 Anglo Saxon Chronicle as "Stanwigga". The name means stone dwellings, stone farm, or stone village. Ecton has been a settlement for over four-thousand years with its history dating back to the Neolithic and Beaker periods. Archaeological finds include a spearhead, dating from the Middle Bronze Age period; an Iron Age cobbled track down by the river;  and over fifty kilns from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The village appears in the Domesday Book 1086: -

In "Hamfordshoe" Hundred Ralph holds of Henry in Ecton 4 hides. There is land for 8 ploughs.  In demesne [are] 1½ hides of this land, and there are 2 ploughs, and 4 slaves; and 8 villans and 9 bordars and 12 sokemen, with 8 bordars, have 6 ploughs.  There are 2 mills rendering 14s and 32 acres of meadow.  It was worth £3; now 100s.  Bondi held it.


Benjamin Franklin, one of the American Founding Fathers, can trace his ancestry back to the village. His family lived for over 300 years in Ecton with many generations engaged as the village blacksmiths, and would have been there at the same time as the Keeps. In William and Elizabeth’s son, William’s will, which was proved on 9 April 1553, the items he is bequeathing to his son John may well have been made by the Franklins:

to son John a pair of plough chains, a pair of cart gears, a cart body… & a stike of rye wife Isabell to be Executor”.


The will was proved 26 January 1621 and amounted to £23 16s 0d. To put this into a modern day context a pound in the Elizabethan era is equivalent to about $400.00 today. It also shows the family’s migration from Ecton to Walgrave, Flore, and Broughton in Northamptonshire, and London. Although she is not mentioned in Anne’s will, her daughter Lucy married Nathaniel Sutton on 23 October 1620 in Sywell,Northamptonshire, and he is cited as the Executor. It would appear that Lucy had a child out of wedlock, a boy William Keep, baptised on 5 November 1615 at Sywell. Her elder sister Elizabeth had married George Elson on 29 November 1602 at Walgrave, but she had been in an extra marital affair with a Robert Calloway, which resulted in the birth of a baby girl, Annabel Keepe, baptised on 12 July 1607. Elizabeth later married Edward Perkins of Broughton and they had three other children: Elizabeth, Ellen, and Thomas. Augustine married Mary Shephard and they had five children, including John who was baptised 6 April 1627 at Walgrave. John Thomas’s son married DorothyMarryett in 1607 and they had two children, including John baptised on 5 March 1609 at Sywell. I have no further details of either John; therefore, one of them could potentially have emigrated to America.

Nicholas and Grace Keep cited above had four children. Including a John baptised on 27 December 1612 at Higham Ferrers. Again I have no further details about John, who is now a third candidate, forJohn Keep of Longmeadow. The only other John I listed from Northamptonshire is the son of Thomas Keep of Stanwick and his second wife Mary.  He was baptised 12 January 1639 in Stanwick, but we can discount him because he died in nearby Raunds in 1667, which is confirmed by his will dated 1667:

In the name of God, Amen I John Keepe of Raunds in the countie of Northton, bricklayer, being visited in bodie, but od good & pfect memory, God be blessed, doe make & ordaine this my last will and testament in manner & forme following. First, I give unto the Lord my soule, who first gave it, in full assurance that I shall rise againe at the last daye, see my saviour Jezus Christ with these eyes and enjoy that happiness which the Lord hath laied up for all his saints. And my bodie I commit to the ground decently to be interred att the discretion of my Executor. Impimis, I give & bequeath unto my brother Thomas Keepe and to his children twelve pence apiece. Item I give and bequeath unto my sister Fusabell Keepe the some of fortie shillings to be paid her within six months after my discease. Item I give and bequeath unto my brother in law John Lane five yards of wollen cloath & to Ann his now wife one ewe & lamb. Item I give and bequeath to my three God children one ewe and lamb apiece. Item I give and bequeath unto Margaret Selby of Barridge one sheepe. Item thus my debts & legacies & funerale expenses being discharged and paid, I do make constitute and appoint my well loved brother in law Jeffery Selbysole Executor of this my last will testament, unto whom I give all the rest of my goods, attell, chattels and feed unbequearthed whatsoever. Witnesses thereof I have hereunto sett my hand & seale William Holmes. Thomas Lane his mark.


From what we have so far established from our DNA testing, John Keepof Longmeadow appears to come from the East Midlands line, and confirms an old family oral tradition. Unfortunately the paper trail does not help us unravel this age-old mystery so we must rely upon DNA testing to see if we can determine John’s actual position within the family line. Basically we need more participants to help us achieve one of our mission aims.