Who was Thomas Keeling?

Thomas Keeling – Elizabeth’s second husband

Elizabeth Gandy and Thomas Keeling were neighbours in Marsh Street, West Bank,  Widnes. In the 1891 Census, Elizabeth Gandy (age 34) and son William Stephen Gandy (age 13, scholar) lived at 19/21 Marsh Street, Widnes, with her parents, William and Mary Stevens. No occupation was given for Elizabeth but possibly she worked at the Van Tromp Inn where her parents were the publicans.

Thomas Keeling
Thomas Keeling. Photo courtesy Dot Palmer

In the same 1891 Census for Marsh Street, Widnes,  Reuben Keeling, 22, copperworks labourer from Alton, Staffordshire and wife Mary Ann Keeling age 27 are recorded as living next door to the Stevens family. In the next house, Thomas Keeling, age 28, copperworks labourer of Alton, Staffordshire, boarded with the Rawlingson family. Thomas was Reuben’s older brother. Marsh Street was just round the corner from Bolton’s Copper Works, so the workers lived right next to their workplace.

View from Cromwell Street
View from Cromwell Street. Photo West Bank Heritage
Copper Works
Bolton’s Copper Works. Photo West Bank Heritage







The Keeling family came from Dimminsdale in the village of Alton, Stafford, in the English Midlands. In the 1881 Census we find Thomas (18) and Reuben (12) living with their parents Samuel and Sarah Keeling and sister Mary H age 9, all born in Alton, Staffordshire.

Village view
View of Alton Village in Staffordshire
Thomas Keeling returns to birthplace Alton

After his marriage to Elizabeth in 1893 we know that Thomas returned to his birthplace Alton, where he is recorded in the 1901 Census age 38, general labourer in Alton Parish, Staffordshire. He is registered as married and lodging with George and Harriet Weaver, Alton Village, St Peter’s Parish, but there is no record of Elizabeth.

In the 1911 Census Thomas Keeling age 48, head of household, registered as widower and gardener on estate, was living with his neice Mary Elsie Pattinson, and four children Mary 9, Arnold 7, Thomas 4, William 2, at Smelting Mill Cottage, Alton. She died in 1909 aged 33 years, possibly giving while birth to son William.

In 1921 Thomas Keeling,  bachelor age 58 yrs, married Mary Emma Stevenson (born Walker) age 48 yrs in a civil ceremony in Cheadle. Thomas Keeling died in 1932 and his death was registered by his wife Mary Emma Keeling. The record reads:

‘Thomas Keeling abode Pink lodge, Farley. When buried, 25 January 1932, age 69 years. Ceremony performed by WJ Betson priest, vicar’.

Pink Lodge
Pink Lodge, Alton Towers

The Pink Lodge is a listed building – read more here.

Thomas Keeling is possibly buried in St Peter’s churchyard  (below) or Alton Cemetery, but I have not found any record or gravestone.

St Peter's Church Alton
St Peter’s Church Alton. Copyright Alf Beard

All the records linked to Elizabeth’s second husband Thomas contain no references to Elizabeth, which seems to confirm that she died not long after their marriage, and the relationship that they had waited so long to formalise.