Welcome to the 3rd Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie (and Kirkliston). Following on from the previous blog we were tracing the issue of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour.
This entry will be brief indeed. We know that Rodger & Isabel’s first child, a son, Alexander was born in Perth, Perthshire in 1699, according to the parish records published by various organizations on different websites (including Ancestry.com and FamilySearch). But that is the last confirmed sighting of Alexander. Did he die in infancy? Or marry and have many children? We simply do not know! The documentary trail just ‘goes cold’ at that point.
We would greatly appreciate it if anyone with any further information (or suggestions) about Alexander Keir born in Perth around the 17th of July 1699, would contact us.
Supposition: The following is purely supposition based on further circumstantial evidence (which will be the subject of a future blog). We currently think that Alexander Keir (1699) did marry and had at least one son who bore his name. This Alexander Keir (jr) was born in 1718 – a date derived from his age at his death – but we currently do not know where or to whom. We are only guessing that he was the (probably first) son of the young (19 year old) Alexander Keir who is the primary subject of this article.
What we do know is that Alexander Keir (1718) married a Rebecca Smith in Brodsworth, Yorkshire, England on the 18th of September 1764. They had only one surviving daughter, Elizabeth Henrietta Keir who was born in Brodsworth in 1770 and married William Hett (jr) at St. Peter’s cathedral in Leeds on the 29th of November, 1790*. [Given that Alexander was about 46 when he married Rebecca it is not surprising that they had only one child.]
Rebecca Keir (nee Smith) died on the second of May, 1803 at her residence in Albion St., Leeds, Yorkshire; she was reportedly 73 years old (indicating she was born in 1730.) Newspaper reports for the following year state that Alexander Keir, Gent. (a merchant and property owner) died at his home in Albion St., Leeds on the 1st of January, 1804; aged 86 years old. He was buried 12 days later in the graveyard of St. John the Evangelist Church also in Leeds.
It is worth noting at this point that Alexander Keir (1718-1804) was a ‘gardener’ living in Brodsworth and that Brodsworth Hall was purchased by George Henry Hay (Viscount Dupplin) from Sir John Wentworth in 1713. [George Henry Hay became the 8th Earl of Kinnoull on the death of his father in 1719.], It is not too far fetched to propose that Alexander was employed by Hay at Brodsworth Hall (in say the 1740’s). We could go as far as to suggest that George Henry Hay whose primary residence was Dupplin Castle, Aberdalgie, Scotland in fact brought Alexander Keir (sr & jr) from their homeland in Scotland to fulfill the duties of ‘gardener’ (see below) at his English retreat.
Aside: When we hear the term ‘Gardener’ today we think of mowing lawns and trimming hedges – menial tasks. However if we think of 18th century (landscape) gardeners we imagine the likes of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who was both an architect and a designer of grand homes and formal gardens. Neither of these images capture the ‘ordinary’ meaning of the term ‘gardener’ as commonly used in England and Scotland in the 1700’s. In England a ‘gardener’ was more akin to a ‘House Steward’ or Agent (the equivalent of this in Scotland was a ‘Factor’). As we will see in future blogs the role of ‘Factor’ was one of significant standing and responsibility.
Estate steward/Agent and House steward. The key administrative role and one particularly necessary when the master of the house had to attend to business elsewhere. The stewards and/or agent saw to processing almost every aspect of management for the family and its affairs, communicating with lawyers, architects, suppliers, tenants, and other family members. ((Estate Steward/Agent Wage: 18th century – £40 & House Steward Wage – £35.) – countryhousereader blog
- The Borthwick Institute Collection (North Yorkshire) holds the original standard Bond & Allegation document for Alexander’s marriage dated Brodsworth, 15th of September, 1764. We have transcribed this document which in essence states that Alexander Keir, Gardener & Rebecca Smith intend to marry by licence. The Bondsman is listed as being one Robert Senior of Doncaster in the presence of [Rev.] George Hatfield (Surrogate). The Licence (costing 200 pounds) was granted by a Dr Roper. [£200 was a princely sum in those days indicating that Alexander Keir was a reasonably wealthy gentleman.]
- Alexander Keir and Rebecca Smith, were married by licence by Matthew Buck, Vicar. The Witnesses were: Chrr (Christopher) Brumpton, W Sutherland, Robert Hewitt, William Hett, Thomas Reynold. The Licence was granted by Dr Roper, Chancellor. [Source] Book: 1764 Collection: Yorkshire: Brodsworth – Parish records [(c) Ancestry.com] Witness William Hett (sr) was the father of the William Hett (jr) who married Alexander & Rebecca’s daughter Elizabeth Henrietta Keir.
- It bears noting that when William Hett (sr) married Mary Bailey by licence at Brodsworth on the 4th of December, 1767, both were listed as servants at Brodsworth Hall to the then Archbishop of York, Robert Hay-Drummond, 2nd son of the late George Henry Hay. [Hay’s 1st son, Thomas Hay had become the 9th Earl of Kinnoull (and nominal owner of Brodsworth Hall) in 1758.]
- It should also be noted that in Rodger Keir’s testament dative of 1734 (see blog#2), he was reportedly a ‘gardiner’ in Aberdalgie, Perthshire. [It is therefore cautiously suggested (without conclusive evidental proof) that Rodger Keir worked in this capacity for the Earl of Kinnoull (Hay family) at Dupplin Castle and that his grandson, Alexander Keir (jr) fulfilled a similar role at the Earl’s English estate – Brodsworth Hall, Brodsworth, near Doncaster.]
- The existing Brodsworth Hall is a relatively recent structure built for Charles Sabine Thellusson in 1866. It is part of the English Heritage Scheme.
The authors of this blog (the ‘Keir collaboration’ [formally The Keir Family Genealogy Group]) ask that if any reader has access to or knows of the whereabouts of the Brodworth Hall Estate records, could they contact us.