The Keep Family of Berkshire and North Hampshire
(Continued from Previous Page)
Doubt is raised by the fact that the Wills so easily found for nearly every generation are missing for the last occupants--John 1709-1783, Joshua 1754-1812, John 1778-1837, and George 1814-1897. The Will made by Mary Keep 1782-1872, John’s widow, does survive. She left her trust and monies divided amongst her six children. Her Freehold property and land were left to her sons, George and John.
One series of correspondence written in 1887 is between Powers Keep 1850-1938, son of George Keep, and Mr. Mausly, the Duke of Wellington’s Land Agent. Powers Keep at the time had moved away, living in Bromley Common, Kent. He married in 1872 in Kensington. His wife, Ellen Ham, was the reputed illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Wellington. Powers’ elder brother, Matthew Henry Keep, and father, George, were living in the house. Powers then appeared to negotiate the transfer of the cottage for his ”father’s benefit.” What seems curious is that no sale papers seem to be signed by any of the parties living in the house. No negotiations seem to have taken place between the beneficiaries of the property and the Wellington Estate. Mrs. Hampton writes in 1958 that she lives in the house inherited by her father, Matthew Henry Keep. In an article that appears in the Basingstoke Gazette, “Home with a Historic Past,” it states that the property had been in the Keeps’ ownership for over 200 years. The article goes on that it could only be sold at one time with the permission of Parliament and signatures of the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Speaker of the House of Commons. These seem very curious clauses for a residential property.
My great grandfather, William Keep 1881-1963, lived on in Stratfield Saye in a tenanted Estate cottage, from where he ran his business, working hard during the Second World War due to high demand for new boots and leather repairs. His son, Ronald George, lived in the same house until his death in 2001, the key to Keep’s Cottage being above the door of this property in living memory.
“Samuel Keep, forty years of age, was born in the parish of Endfield, of honest parents, and had some slight education at school: when of age he was not put to a trade but followed country business, as husbandry and attending cattle, and his chief employment for some time was driving them to Smithfield market, and was reckoned an honest man in his way. In process of time he married a farmer's widow, and thereby came into the possession of a good farm and stock; where falling into decay, they were obliged to resign their farm, and he from that time betook himself to bad company, and consequently to evil courses, and amongst others to this of sheep stealing, for which he died.
"He had not any children by his wife, but she had five by her former husband, to whom Keep behaved with great tenderness and affection, as also to his wife, which shews him not to have been a man of a naturally vicious and reprobate habit of mind.”
Samuel was born in Enfield (or End Field) in 1692, youngest son of John and Jane Keep, and he had a brother Robert and sister Elizabeth.Part of my interest in Samuel is that he was a Keep from Enfield, where my family originates, although as yet I have not gotten back past 1757. Therefore I’m not sure there is a direct link.
Once Samuel married Widow Wood, things appeared to be looking up for him; there was a farm to run and children to look after, so it seems for a while he tried to make a go of it. Prior to 1742, Samuel Keep was leasing land from St Thomas’s Hospital and had a license to remove gravel from the land, but that year Samuel was summoned to appear for not paying his dues towards relief of the poor in the Parish of St John in Hackney.
Thus it was that on Sunday 10th March 1745 Samuel stole the sheep from a field called “Fenny Coats” in Enfield and took them into London for slaughter. The owner of the sheep, Mrs. Carter, brought Samuel up as a child, (and she tellingly did not appear at his trial) so we can only wonder why he chose her sheep. He was found out and questioned by a Clerk to the Justice, who finding there was a case to answer, committed him to Newgate to await his trial.
Prisons then were not anything like the institutions we know of today. They were places to await trial, not a punishment in themselves, but they were run for profit by the Gaolers, or Turnkeys. Prisoners had to pay a fee upon entry, and if they didn’t have any money, they had to give up their clothes in lieu of payment. Prisoners had weights and shackles attached to their legs, which could be removed for a fee. Food and drink had to be bought, and the prison had its own bakery and brewery (beer was preferable to the filthy water). Visitors had to pay an admission fee. Prisoners who had no money could beg through a heavily barred window that opened onto the street for food or cash, but of course they then had to keep it from the other felons. Samuel probably got his food from his wife that way. Conditions were appalling, and there was every chance that prisoners would die of Gaol Fever ( a type of Typhus) before ever getting to court, assuming they hadn’t starved to death by then was well. In 1750, just a few years later, two prisoners contracted Gaol Fever and were brought into Court at the Old Bailey next door, where they passed the disease on. More than 50 people present were soon dead, including the Judge, the Lord Mayor, and all of the Jury.
Samuel’s trial was held on 24th April, and appears to have lasted about 20 minutes. Samuel’s wife had managed to get two people to speak on his behalf, but it was no use and he was sentenced to death.
Whilst we tend to think that many were hanged in those dark times, the average of sentences commuted was 58% for this year. Many juries would lessen the value of goods stolen to avoid death sentence being passed. In 1801 the reprieve rate was 89%, with those commuted being sent for transportation to the America’s up until 1776, and after to Australia. However, 1745 was the year of the Jacobite rebellion, and in times of civil unrest it seemed the authorities cracked down hard whenever they could, giving a stern example of the power of the state to one and all.
References and Additional Information
The Common Hangman, James Bland, 2001
The Hanging Tree, Execution and the English People, 1770-1868 V.Catrell, 1996
The London Hanged, Peter Linebaugh, 2003
The Gaol, Kelly Grovier, 2008