THE KEEPS AND LACE MAKING
Although the origin of lace-making is unknown, specimens discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs suggest
that the craft was being practised for several centuries BC. There are references to lace in the Bible, and from the beginning of
the Catholic Church it has always formed part of the ceremonial vestments worn by its clergy. In respect of
In respect of the
Name Age Occupation Born
Thomas Keep 50 Agricultural Labourer Kempston, Bedfordshire
Mary Keep 50 Lacemaker Kempston, Bedfordshire
Catherine Keep 20 Lacemaker Kempston, Bedfordshire
Fanny Keep 15 Lacemaker Kempston, Bedfordshire
Amos Keep 8 Kempston, Bedfordshire
The craft was popular because it supplemented the meagre incomes of the poor families. A good lace maker could earn up to one shilling and three pence a day, about 6p in today’s money, which was more than an agricultural labourer’s pay. The lace makers worked at their craft for up to twelve hours a day, and would start at six a.m. through to seven or eight p.m. During the summer months they could work by natural light outside the cottage, but during the night or in winter they relied upon candle light. They used a flash-stool, or candle-block, which was a large candle stick surrounded by glass refracting flasks filled with water that acted as a concentrated lens for the candle light. The lace makers were positioned around the flash-stool, allowing up to five to work by the light of a single candle. Also to keep them warm they would use "fire-pots", earthenware, brass, or iron pots with holes in them that were filled with hot ashes or charcoal and placed near the feet of the lace maker. This was to ensure the lace being worked was not discoloured and dirtied by smoke from the open fire in the cottage.
To assist their concentration, whilst relieving the monotony, and to aid with the count from 1 to 19 or 19 to 1, lace “tells” were chanted. It was repeated, changing the number of pins at each repetition until the 19th pin was reached. An example of “tell” is:
I had a little nutting-tree,
And nothing would it bear,
But little silver nutmegs,
For Galligolden fair.
Each year on the 2nd Saturday in September was the lace makers’ holiday when wetting the candle-block took
place, which meant that the lace makers would eat and drink together. At this event young men would join in with the party games,
which included jumping the candle-block: Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jump over
Each year on the 2nd Saturday in September was the lace makers’ holiday when wetting the candle-block took place, which meant that the lace makers would eat and drink together. At this event young men would join in with the party games, which included jumping the candle-block:
Jack be nimble
The local lace industry was dependant upon child labour, especially from lace schools. Originally the Overseers of the Poor would pay an experienced lace maker to teach the children in workhouses so they would be able to part fund their upkeep. Lace making was at the expense of the poor children’s general education, and merely child exploitation. The children worked long hours for minimal wages to meet unreasonable demands from their Overseers who employed brutal punishment regimes to ensure that both output quotas and quality were met. No consideration was given to health problems due to poorly ventilated overcrowded working conditions. The 1851 Census shows Joel Keep, born 3 April 1836 at Kempston, Bedfordshire, living with step mother Ann, his brother James, and half sister Rebecca in the Bedford Union Workhouse:
Whilst it was operating, the
Whilst lace was an important cottage industry in Bedfordshire, so was straw platting. From the 1851 Census of Cardington, Bedfordshire, we can see that William Keep’s wife Emma Keep (nee Peacock), was a straw platter:
Name Age Occupation Born
William Keep 30 Agricultural Labourer Cardington, Bedfordshire
Emma Keep 31 Straw Platter Warden, Bedfordshire
Betsy Keep 11 Lacemaker Kempston, Bedfordshire Eliza Keep 10 Lacemaker Kempston, Bedfordshire
William Keep 3 Cardington, Bedfordshire
Francis Keep 1 Cardington, Bedfordshire
The wooden objects are the bobbins that carry the thread and keep it taut. The
The lace was made on either a square pillow that sat on a three-legged bowed horse, or a bolster pillow, which rested on a trestle
CAPTAIN ARTHUR STUART KEEP MC 1891 – 1952
Not deterred by this setback he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), gaining his wings in August, 1916. For several months he was engaged in ferrying aircraft and then in January, 1917, he was posted overseas as a test pilot.
A year later he was transferred to the Trenchard’s Independent Air Force, No. 55 Squadron, stationed in Alsace-Lorraine and flew the D.H.4S, a light two-seat day bomber designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. Arthur took part in daylight bombing raids on Mannheim, Coblenz, and other targets and was awarded the Military Cross after the famous Cologne raid, at that time the longest daylight bombing operation of the 1914-18 war. He was wounded and invalided home again in July, 1918.
In June, 1919, Arthur joined Westland Aircraft as an Air Ministry test pilot, and on demobilization in 1919 he became the company’s first independent Test Pilot. In this capacity he carried out all the test flying of the Westland Weasel, a two-seat fighter/reconnaissance single engined tractor biplane designed to replace the Bristol Fighter.
Westland then developed a six-seat Limousine civil aircraft, which was specifically produced to enter the Air Ministry competition for commercial aircraft, held at Martlesham Heath in the autumn of 1920. The purpose of the competition was to select the best designed civilian aircrafts to replace the converted military ones operating on commercial European air routes
The Westland entry was piloted by Arthur Keep, and during one of the flights he alarmed his passengers by entering the cabin for a chat and a smoke while the aeroplane continued on an even keel. In a close fought contest against the Sopwith Antelope, a single-engined tractor biplane flown by Harry G. Hawker, Keep took the £7,500 first prize in the small aeroplane class. It all came down to the last test, an emergency landing. Each competitor had to make three approaches over a row of small balloons and land and stop in the shortest distance. Their average distance decided the winner; however, if any aeroplane was damaged on landing, it was automatic disqualification. Keep won the toss and elected to let Hawker and his Sopwith Antelope to go first. On his third attempt Hawker misjudged his landing, resulting in the plane’s undercarriage being badly damage, which according to the rules was an automatic disqualification. The six-seat Limousines went into production, while the model used in the competition was sold and used as a spotter aeroplane for the Newfoundland Sealing Fleet and later in Labrador during the gold-rush.
Arthur also tested the prototype Westland Walrus, a carrier-borne reconnaissance biplane for the Royal Navy. The Walrus had flotation bags and an observation blister and carried a crew of three. Following his flight, Captain Keep remarked that the machine was somewhat vicious in its behaviour. Production aircraft began to be delivered to No. 3 Squadron RAF at RAF Leuchars in 1921.
No. 3 Squadron was subsequently split up to form independent Fleet Spotter Flights in 1923, although, despite the extensive navalisation, the Walrus never operated from carriers. The Walrus continued in service in the Fleet spotting role until replaced in late 1925
Arthur Keep was seriously injured, which resulted in him having both legs amputated. Despite this misfortune, which ended his flying career, he continued his connections with Westland as technical superintendent, later becoming a director of Petters Limited, a subsidiary company. He continued until he retired in 1935.
Captain Arthur Stuart Keep, MC., died on 3 December 1952 in Long Sutton,
Somerset, aged 61.