SIR WILLIAM KEYT - The infamous 3rd BARONET
William, the eldest son of Sir William Keyt, 2nd Baronet, had unfortunately died just thirty-five days earlier and so permission had to be sought from Queen Anne for Sir William's title to be passed to his grandson. A Warrant was therefore granted to the Earl Marshall of England which said:- "Anne by the grace of God Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, defender of the faith and To our right true and well-beloved Cousin and councillor Charles Earl of Carlisle Earl Marshall of England During the minority of our right truly and entirely well-beloved Cousin Thomas Duke of Norfolk Greeting whereas we are humbly informed that William Keyte Esq Eldest son to Sir William Keyte Bart. Ex storn praed a Ex origineal of Ebrington in the County of Gloucester Bart. dying a few weeks before his Father The Widow and younger Children of the said William Keyte cannot by the ordinary way and rules of honour enjoy the Title place and precedence which otherways would have been justly due to her and her Children in case the said Sir William Keyte had survived his Father. We therefore for Divers good Causes and considerations are graciously pleased to Ordain and declare that Agnes Keyte, John Keyte, Francis Keyte, Hastings Keyte, Elizabeth Keyte, Margaret Keyte and Agnes Keyte, the relict and younger children of the said William Keyte, shall henceforth have hold and enjoy the same Title prehemenence place and residence respectively as the said William Keyte had survived his Father and been possess'd of the Dignity of Baronet and our will and pleasure is that you our Earl Marshall and to whom the cognizance of matters of this nature may properly belong As see this Our Will and order obeyed and Kept our several Officers of Arms, and cause these presents to be registered in the College of Arms and for so doing this shall be your discharge or Warrant Given at Our Castle at Windsor the 5th day of June 1704 in the year of our Reign By her Majestys Command. Charles Hedges".
In response to this Warrant the Right Honourable Earl Marshall sent the following letter to the King's pusuants and Heralds at Arms:- "Whereas I have received a Warrant from under her Majesty's Royal Signet and sigmanual bearing date the 5th day of June Inst. Signifying the Royal pleasure that Agnes Keyte, John Keyte, Francis Keyte, Hastings Keyte, Elizabeth Keyte, Margaret Keyte and Agnes Keyte, the relict and younger children of the said William Keyte Esq. should enjoy the same Title precendency as if the said William Keyte had survived his Father Sir William Keyte late of Ebrington in the County of Gloucester Bart. Deceased and been actually possess'd of the Dignity of Baronet. These are therefore to Order and require the King's Heralds and pusuants of Arms to give due obedience to her Majesty's said College of Arms for which this shall herewith be sent and entered in under my hand and Seal of my Office of Earl Marshall the 27th June 1704 in the 3rd year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland Defender of the Faith and Carlisle Earl Marshall".
By this Warrant the Baronetcy, and what was by now a very considerable fortune, was therefore passed down to Sir William Keyt's eldest grandson William who was just 13 years old. William had been christened at Blockley Parish Church Friday 6th July 1688. At the age of 17 Sir William bought five yards land in Charingworth near Ebrington and then, on Thursday 23rd November 1710, eight years after inheriting the Baronetcy, Sir William the 3rd Baronet married the Honourable Ann Tracy, daughter of Lord Viscount William Tracy of Rathcoole near Dublin in Ireland and Lord of the Manor of Toddington near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Ann was described as being "a worthy nobleman's daughter....of great beauty and merit". The Tracy (Traci) family are said to be illegitimately descended from the Blood Royal of the Saxon Kings of England. In 1533 they had obtained a lease on a 'desirable property' at Stanway near Snowshill. Sir William and Lady Ann were married at Toddington near Stanway on Thursday 23rd November 1710. Lady Ann brought with her to the marriage The College that stood in grounds opposite Holy Trinity Church in Old Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. The original site of The College had been granted to John, Earl of Warwick, and his heirs, but it had later returned to the Crown and Queen Elizabeth I had then granted it to Richard Coningsby on a twenty-one year lease. Afterwards it had transferred to John Combes Esquire. After their marriage Sir William and Lady Ann lived in The Mansion House in Stratford-upon-Avon and their marriage produced eight children, John, Thomas Charles, Jane, Agnes, Ann, Robert, Elizabeth and Dorothy. Lady Elizabeth Coventry died at the end of December 1720 and was buried at St. Eadburgha's Church in Ebrington on Friday 1st January 1721.
Living in Stratford was very convenient for Sir William who by now had extensive business interests in Warwickshire. He was well known in the area as a Tory, and also a Jacobite supporting King James II, and in 1722 he was elected to serve as the representative for Warwick in what was to be the last Parliament of King George I. He was then re-elected to serve in the first Parliament of King George II in 1727. While he was still the Member of Parliament for Warwick Lady Ann took an innkeeper's daughter named Molly Johnson as her personal maid. Molly was described as being "a tall, genteel girl, with a fine complexion, and seemingly very modest and innocent". Molly is thought to have been the daughter of George Johnson and Mary Smith who were married at Holy Trinity in Stratford on Friday 14th November 1679 and had their daughter Mary 'Molly' Johnson christened there on Tuesday 25th December 1683.
Some time later Sir William and Lady Ann, together with Molly Johnson, moved to Hidcote House which William's uncle Francis Keyt had built in 1663. By now Sir William had become very attracted to Molly, a situation that had been noticed by the servants, and in due course the housekeeper told Lady Ann, saying that the information had come from the butler, a man named George Heron. Lady Ann challenged Sir William about the butler's report with the result that "the very next night Sir William went to the servant's apartment and ran his sword several times through the bed where the butler used to lie, who for some reason had changed his lodging and happily escaped his destruction". Now that the affair was out in the open Sir William, presumably thinking that he now had nothing more to loose, told Lady Ann that he was leaving her and moving to Norton House with Molly. Before doing so however he also told Lady Ann that Hidcote House was too big for her and so before he left he demolished the whole of one wing. He then went to live in Norton House with his two eldest sons John and Thomas Charles, and with Molly Johnson who had by then become his mistress. He also took with him a man named Henry Clark who had been his gardener at Hidcote House and who now had become his steward.
Hidcote House - Built by Sir Francis Keyt, brother of the 1st Keyt Baronet.
He and the 1st and 2nd Keyt Baronets lived there.
Lady Ann returned to live at The College with her six other children though she was still in the habit of visiting Stanway as another member of the Tracy family, Anne Tracy, who lived at Stanway wrote in her 1723-1725 diary "saw Lady Keyt's equipment pass through the yard on the way to Toddington".
Norton House - Home of the Sir William Keyt, 3rd Baronet, and for a while his son Sir Thomas Charles Keyt.
This is where Sir William perished in the fire he started whilst in a drunken stupor.
Norton House, Sir William's new home which he had bought off William Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele in 1716, was "an handsome box, with extensive gardens, planted and laid out in the luxuriant taste of the time" which, from it's position above Aston-sub-Edge on the side of the Cotswold Hills, commanded magnificent views over the Vale of Evesham. After he moved in Sir William built a whole new mansion house next to the farmhouse and then because his mistress remarked "what is a kite without wings?" he had two wings added to the building. The total cost of this building work was said to be about £10,000 (equal to about £610,000 in 1998) and it seems that from now on Sir William's debts mounted, as a result of which he took to the bottle for consolation. He also started to keep what became known as "an hospitable house" but this only added to his plight as he then found that he was seldom without the company of "people being fond of freedom and jollity" and within a few years his financial situation had become desperate.
Eventually he had to start mortgaging the estate and selling off his various assets including The College at Stratford-upon-Avon which he had inherited when he married Lady Ann. On Tuesday 30th July 1728 he mortgaged The College, a barn, and two closes in Old Street to a Joseph Woolmer for £650. Then on Monday 24th June 1734 he re-mortgaged The College and barn in tenure to a widow, the Honourable Anne Somerville, and a barn in tenure to a John Burman, and two closes in tenure to a John Taylor and a Mark Noble for the sum of £994. Just over three months later, on Monday 4th November 1734 he sold all of the property known as No.16 The College to his eldest son Thomas Charles Keyt for 10/-. Then in 1737, presumably in an attempt to obtain money, he unsuccessfully challenged the Will of his brother Hastings Keyt, who had nominated an Anne Clarke of Chipping Campden as his main beneficiary. The final straw came in 1740 when, on Thursday 29th December, he agreed the conveyance of the lease of The College and two closes and a barn in Old Street from Joseph Woolmer, Gent, Rev. Thomas Cockman of University College, Oxford, and his son Thomas Charles Keyt, to a James Kendall of Hanover Square, Middlesex, for the sum of £1,300 (about £950,000 in 1998). Ten years later James Kendall died and left The College to his wife Jane and by 1796 she had sold it to a John Fullerton.
By now Sir William's son Thomas Charles was coming to the end of his studies at Oxford University and Sir William himself was living more and more a life of extravagance and licentiousness such that he had become known as a "notorious evil liver". Also a twenty year-old dairymaid had been employed to work at Norton House. Her name was Blowselinda and she was described as "a fresh coloured country girl.......with no other beauty than what arises from the bloom of youth". It wasn't long before Sir William started to make advances to Blowselinda, and it wasn't long after this that Molly noticed these advances. She immediately packed her bags and went to live in Chipping Campden where she lived by running a small sewing school. When Thomas Charles qualified from Oxford, instead of returning to live with his father at Norton House he spent most of his time with his friend Lord Leigh at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. Tormented by the loss of his mistress, his son, and his wealth, Sir William took the bottle even more and at the end of August 1741 his new love Blowselinda left her job at Norton House.
Suddenly Sir William found himself to be very alone. For a whole week he drank himself into a frenzy and then on the evening of Friday 4th September 1741 he took the two candles that his butler George Heron had lighted as usual and set on the marble table in the hall and went upstairs with them, something that he did from time to time. However at about 8-00pm one of the housemaids suddenly came running down the stairs shouting that "the lobby is all in a cloud of smoke". The servants and a visiting tradesman who was in the house at the time immediately ran upstairs, forced open the lobby door, and found that Sir William had set fire to a pile of best linen which had been a legacy to his son Thomas Charles from a relation. No sooner had the servants set to put out the flames than Sir William ran into the adjoining bedchamber and shut and bolted the door. In this room there was a cotton bed and deal wainscoting and Sir William set fire to these. When the servants eventually opened this door the room was ablaze and despite the efforts of one of the servants, a Thomas Whitmore, to save Sir William, the flames were so ferocious that it drove everyone back down the stairs and out of the house which was completely razed the whole house to the ground. Next day all that was found of Sir William was "his hip bone, the bones of his back with two or three keys, and a gold watch which he had in his pocket". On Saturday 12th September 1741 Sir William's remains were taken to St.Lawrence's Church in Weston-sub-Edge for the burial service which was taken by Rev. Thomas Bell. His remains were then taken to St. Eadburgha's Church in Ebrington where they were interred.
Sir William's wife Lady Ann Keyt nee Tracy died four years later, on Sunday 2nd April 1745, and on Monday 17th April 1750 George Heron died. He too was buried in St. Lawrence's churchyard. The vicar was Rev. William Bell, probably the son of Rev. Thomas Bell. George's epitaph said...........
"The Tyrant Death with his most fatal dart
Has smitten our Friend the Butler to the heart
Good Beer and Ale he loved exceeding well
And whilst he'd health of both he drank his fill
Trust to his patron, always very free
To make such welcome who would not beastly be
But let not any grieve too much within their mind
For although the Butler's gone, the key is left behind"
Sir William died intestate and his estate was eventually disposed of by an Admcon of Goods in May 1761 which read:-
"Sir William Keyt on the third day May Adcon of the Goods Chattels and Credits of Sir William Keyt late of Norton in the County of Gloucester Baronet deced (deceased) was granted to Sir Thomas Charles Keyt Bart. The natural and lawful son of the said deced (deceased) being first sworn by Commision only to administer Dame Ann Keyt Widow the Relict of the said deced (deceased) first......Nov 1732".
SIR THOMAS CHARLES KEYT, 4th BARONET
& SIR ROBERT KEYT, 5th BARONET