William Keen (1780) and Ann Nicholls
As mentioned in the previous story, William Keen was born 3 June 1780, presumably at his grandmother’s home in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England, and baptised in his parent’s Parish of Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire, 25 July 1780. He was the first born son of William Keen and Mary Evans.

As a young man William worked and lived at Upper Guiting (Temple Guiting), 10 km west of Stow.

It was there that records show he met and married Ann Nicholls on 14 October 1802, in Blockley. They settled down to live in that village.

Ann was about the 8th child of William Nicholls (b. about 1747) and Mary (b. about 1753).
Ann continued to be a member of the local Baptist congregation, although William did not join her in this.

Blockley lies amid sheltering hills on the fast-flowing Blockley Brook. Oddly, the Parish was for centuries part of Worcestershire (although detached from that county), and did not become a part of Gloucestershire until 1931.

The village centres around its village green, church and manor house. Most of the houses are built of the local limestone, often stained with orange lichen, and date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. most of the farmers held their land as tenants of the Rushout family Lord Northwick), who owned Northwick Park, north of the village.

William worked originally as a farm labourer. The district’s light, fertile soil grew grain (mainly barley) and gave pasture to the famous Cotswold sheep. Rivalling agriculture in importance was the local silk industry.

Abundant water power led to the establishment of at least 8 silk mills there around 1700-1710. These were used in cleaning the raw silk for the Coventry ribbon trade, and were to provide employment for some of William’s descendants. However a trade treaty with France was signed in January 1859 which killed off the silk industry. The mills were turned to other uses, primarily milling flour and making cider.

William and Ann are believed to have had 13 children.

Between 1841 and 1851, William became a gardener, working for the gentry, probably Lord Northwick.

William Keen died shortly after Christmas of 1852 and was buried in Blockley churchyard on 1 January 1853. His wife, Ann Nicholls, died in June 1864.

Unfortunately, the local Cotswold stone used for headstones in the old churchyard is quite soft, and the inscriptions are no longer legible.

There are other records available listing their children and who they married, but the one of main interest to us is their ninth child, William, b. 1824, who married Elizabeth Manton 17 October 1840, and later emigrated to Australia.




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