The Kecks and the Tracys
The Chute-Keck-Tracy Connection
Edward Chute - Sir Anthony Keck - Ferdinand/Ferdinando Tracy

  by Francis Chute, September, 2006


Chaloner Chute's descendants could not have held The Vyne for 300 years without a series of benefactors - Anthony Keck, Thomas Lobb and William Wiggett. The latter two took the name Chute and lived at The Vyne. Keck, however, never lived there; so why did he volunteer his massive help to the Chutes?

The scene is late 17th c. England, where many families had lost their money in supporting Charles I against Cromwell, and the gentry were now rebuilding their status in the countryside. As a general rule, money marries money, and after the recent social upheavals, people were less choosy between 'old money' and 'new money'.

The Kecks (like the Chutes) were 'new money' - wealth amassed from success in the Law. Anthony Keck and his father, from Mickleton in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds (near today's famous garden at Hidcote), were self-made London barristers. Anthony rose to gain a knighthood and a seat in Parliament and to become - as Chaloner Chute had very nearly done - a Commissioner of the Great Seal. His career can be read in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Kecks' country neighbours, the Tracys, were 'old money' - very much so, as they claimed male lineage from a Saxon king via Alfred the Great and wives who descended from Charlemagne! Their heartland included Toddington, Hailes and Stanway in the beautiful hill-country near Winchcombe.

One of the family was reputedly a co-murderer of Thomas a Becket. For centuries on, Tracys were High Sheriffs of Gloucestershire. But their status did not tie them to the past. Even before the English Reformation they were passionate advocates of Protestantism; by 1533 they were able to wrest the Manor of Stanway from the Abbot of Tewkesbury and then to close down the Abbey of Hailes (which had prospered by possessing a phial containing "the original Blood of Christ")*. The family at Stanway rose to a baronetcy; their senior cousins gained an Irish Viscounty. The Tracy future was bright.

*[Jackie's note: the phial was subsequently taken to London and examined, where it was found to contain a mixture of clarified honey and saffron. See http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/glouces/abbeys/hailes.htm.]

Then Fortune's wheel took a turn. Two baronets died at Stanway without issue and in 1677 this glorious house was left to Ferdinando, younger son of the 3rd Viscount Tracy. Anthony Keck of nearby Mickleton (new money) saw his chance, and within two years he negotiated his daughter Katharine into the favour of the propertied Ferdinando. Married in 1680, they quickly had sons Ferdinand and John. But by the end of 1682 both Ferdinands, father and son, were dead and Katharine was left in a huge house with one baby, another on the way, and no husband.

This put the Tracys and Kecks in a difficult position. Anthony Keck's wife could look after Katharine for the time being, but their Mickleton house already overflowed with her brothers and sisters; they were in no position to take permanent charge of the Tracy heir until he reached adulthood. Moreover what sort of life faced Katharine? She would have no wish to return to Stanway and become a surplus female, however honoured, in a household controlled by a remote Tracy cousin. And her father's plan for social advancement was now in limbo.

But this clever lawyer had not got where he was by accident. He soon turned to his advantage a situation which will have been common knowledge at the Bar - the predicament of the young Chutes. Since 1664 they had been barred from The Vyne under Lady Dacre's sequestration order, which turned on a question of cash. Chaloner Chute's widow had claimed many thousand pounds more than he had left her under his will, and her lawyer relatives in the North family had won a Chancery Judgment in her favour. The indignant and cash-strapped Chutes tried continually to reverse it, but the claim was so tangled that even the House of Lords in a full day's examination found it too difficult to unravel; they therefore left the Chancery decision and the penal sequestration in force. We can be sure that the rights and wrongs of the Dacre/Chute case were exhaustively discussed over dinner at the Inns of Court.

In 1682 therefore, when his daughter Katharine was widowed, the Chancery lawyer Keck will have correctly gauged the Chute family's dilemma - denied their great house for 18 years but unable to afford the cost of recovering it. He himself had the wealth to bring off a double coup - to buy his daughter a respectable Chute husband and a prestigious address, and secondly to please his Tracy neighbours by providing a stately home for their heir to grow up in.

But which Chute was eligible? The current heir, Chaloner III, was aimlessly soldiering in the Low Countries. But he was enamoured of Lady Bridget Noel, and Lady Dacre had her knife into him, so a deal involving Chaloner might be hard to negotiate. His brother Edward however was unattached, well-educated, had a decent job at Court, spoke good French, and got on well with Lady Dacre.

Keck's problem was that Chaloner was still alive, and was legal heir. Whether Keck primed Edward in advance, we cannot know; it seems unlikely, since in summer 1685 Edward packed his bags for a government job in Paris. But fortune was on his side, and in that same October Chaloner died unexpectedly (and so opportunely that one might almost be suspicious). The rest, they say, is history.

Edward obviously liked the look of Katharine (they later had ten children together) and probably leapt at her father's offer of cash to pay off Lady Dacre so that a Chute could re-enter The Vyne with head high. He also agreed to Keck's request that Edward take open-ended responsibility to care for Katharine's (probably handicapped) sister Anthonina. On Chaloner's death, Keck moved like lightning, and Edward recalled his luggage from Paris. The young couple were swiftly betrothed, and within months the whole Marriage Settlement (a network of deeds and mortgages in favour of the Kecks) plus the essential quit-claim from Lady Dacre and an Act to reverse the sequestration were in place - all at Keck's expense. Edward entered the Vyne and married Katharine in 1686.

The frequent display of Keck arms at The Vyne bears witness that this manifestly arranged marriage turned out a wonderful success. Not only did it produce the inimitable John Chute - an achievement in itself - but she mothered 10 Chute children after her 3 Tracys, was dearly loved by Edward, and made valuable financial bequests to the Chutes (as did her brother Francis after her). It is sad to have no portrait of her at The Vyne.

As for the Tracys, young John became Edward's god-son and seems to have kept fond memories of his upbringing, since Edward's will (1722) talks of John Tracy and his wife as his "dearest friends" and of their "tender, never interrupted more than filial affection for me as well as my intire love for them". The families remained close; we find a ballad written by John's brother Francis as a thank-you to the Tracys for a happy Christmas visit to Stanway. And a later Tracy took the additional name Keck on inheriting the Kecks' Great Tew estate. Altogether a most successful set of connections.

KECKS AND CHUTES

The bones of what I know (i.e., have taken the trouble to investigate) are these:

Edward Chute, second grandson of Chaloner Chute, the Speaker (who had bought The Vyne in 1653 from the impoverished Royalist family of Sandys) inherited that property in late 1685, and promptly married Katharine nee Keck, widow of Ferdinand Tracy, Esq. It is surprising that there is no portrait of her at The Vyne, seeing how devoted Edward was to her, how often one sees Keck armorials in the house, and how much the Chutes gained from her and her family.

Sir Anthony Keck (her father by Mary, daughter of Francis Thorne, who died 21.9.1702) was born in 1630 at Mickleton, Gloucestershire. Entered Inner Temple, became one of the chief Chancery barristers, and was knighted 1688/9, the day after being named Second Commissioner of the Great Seal. MP for Tiverton 1691. Died in Bell Yard, Chancery Lane, Dec. 1695. Roger North described him as "a person that had raised himself by his wits, and, baring some hardness in his character which might be ascribed to ... the gout, he was a man of polite merry genius". North mentions that Keck compiled a 1697 document "Cases argued and decreed in the High Court of Chancery from the 12th year of King Charles II to the 31st". (See also DNB Vol.30 p.296)

Katharine brought with her, to live at the Vyne, 2 Tracy children and a sister Anthonina (who may have been handicapped, since Edward was paid a consideration to house her). A note 'Tracy of Stanway' is attached: the Tracy family remained close friends to Edward Chute.

Katharine predeceased Edward. His hatchment, without her arms, is displayed at St Andrew's Church, Sherborne St. John for a date after their arms were shown conjoined. She had borne 13 children in all - 3 Tracys (including one who died while an infant), and 10 Chutes. John, born in 1701, recalled her gentle admonishing of him for telling a lie. I guess she had died well before 1710 because of:

(a) the bad relations which existed between her sons and
(b) the fact that only one of her Chute children ever married.
One feels that a true mother would have sorted out their mutual problems, but that Edward may have had to import a foster mother while they were still impressionable.

The Kecks were a financial godsend for the Chutes. Edward's granddmother Lady Dacre, whom her own family (Roger North again, in Lives of the Norths) considered "scurvy" and relentlessly malicious, was Challoner Chute the Speaker's second wife. After his death in 1659 she claimed she had been cheated by his executors, won Chancery Orders against her son-in-law and eldest grandson, and persecuted them for some 25 years, demanding more & more money, obtaining a sequestration order on the Vyne, putting in her bailiff, taking its timber, and denying them access to their own home. Only when her eldest grandson died (Chaloner Chute, III), and Edward came along with a Keck heiress for bride, did she, now over 90, lift her vendetta against the Chutes. This was because Sir Anthony Keck offered to pay her off, and to defray the parliamentary charges for annulling the sequestration order. But as a prudent father he would not let Katharine marry Edward until his brother had died and Edward inherited the Vyne, and then Sir Anthony required a mortgage of the Vyne in favour of the Keck family as part of the Marriage Settlement.

Edward also benefited financially from various properties which Katharine owned, including some in the Midlands (mentioned in Edward's Will). After him, his sons Anthony and John got both income and capital from Keck bequests. The latter were not only from Katharine's estate but also her brother Francis's bequests (e.g. the Dunch family estate mentioned in VCR for Hants).

It is almost certain that John Chute, architect, funded the first phase of improvements to the Vyne with Keck-oriqin money. Lady Dacre had stripped the Chutes of their liquid assets years before! John's first ready cash came from selling former Keck leases; then from raising a mortgage and persuading his Norfolk cousins (named Lobb, later Lobb Chute) to underwrite it at his death.

A few additional notes on the Kecks are attached. I have not yet tried systematically to sort out all the various Kecks, Tracys, etc. In Burke's Commoners for the period 1725-50, there was a Samuel Keck, Esq., Master in Chancery, whose daughter Hannah married John Bullock of Faulkbourn. The name Keck was adopted by a plebeian but successful Glos. mason-architect Anthony (1726-97).

THE KECK CONNECTION

Sir Anthony Keck (Katharine's father) was born and baptised at Mickleton, Gloucestershire. This is the village next to Hidcote, and a few miles north of Stanway; so the Keck and Tracy families were near neighbours. Long Marston, quoted in Le Neve as the Keck family seat, is 4 miles north of Mickleton. He was "Anthony Keck, esq.' when party to the Marriage Settlement of Edward Chute and Katharine in 1685. He was knighted in 1689. See DNE for career.

By the mid 1600's Anthony and Samuel Keck were both prominent lawyers in London. One of Anthony's estates was Great Tew, Oxon. to whose church he gave bells nos. 1,2,4,6 and 7 - installed in 1709 after his death in 1695.

Le Neve says Sir Anthony & his wife Marv (nee Thome) had children:
Katharine married (1) Ferdinand Tracy of Stanway, and (2) Edward Chute of The Vyne
Mary married Thomas Vernon of Hanbury.
Ann married Richard Whithed of Tytherley. [Jackie's note: these would be the parents of Francis Whithed, the cousin with whom John Chute traveled so extensively. The two were so close, they were known collectively as "the Chutehed". When Francis died, John was reportedly completely devastated and inconsolable.]
Margaret married William Baber of Lincoln's Inn and died 1723
Francis of Great Tew reportedly married Mary Dunch, by whom he had issue Anthony, John and Mary. (This may be wrong, the sons look like the re-named Tracys]
Elizabeth married Freeman of Glos.
Marina married Edward Cressenor of London, a grocer
Winifred married John Nicoll of Middlesex, gentleman.
One deduces that Anthonina, who was cared for at The Vyne, was a handicapped sister and therefore omitted from the record.

Having learned from the Tracy Peerage Case documents that Anthony Tracy (younger grandson of Ferdinand and Katharine) adopted the additional surname Keck, it is clear that he was the 'Anthony Tracy Keck, esq, of Great Tew' (born about 1725). Roger Barber's internet note February 5, 2002 quoted Francis Keck's Will requiring "his nephew John Tracy" to change his name to Keck in order to inherit. John, we know from Tracy family records, did so; but do we deduce that John passed the Great Tew estate to his brother Anthony under a similar condition? It seems so.

Anthony, having married a sister of the Duke of Hamilton, could scarcely have been so short of money that he consented to re-name himself for purely monetary reasons, but a desire for the Great Tew estate might have provided his motive.

The "dear sister Tracy", to whom Edward Chute's daughter Ann (b. 1700) made a bequest in her 1747 Will. Thus Katharine had had three Tracy children before marrying Edward, and brought her surviving son and daughter to The Vyne).

Katharine's brother Francis (d. 1728) cannot have had a son, still less the three children of his and Dunch blood whom Le Neve attributes to him; why else would he (a) cut the Dunch family entirely out of inheritance and (b) bequeath Great Tew to his nephew John Tracy?

Le Neve must have known of the estate succession but not known of the bequest on condition of name-change.

John Tracy was F's sister's son by her lst marriage, i.e. as much F's nephew as the 10 Chutes by her 2nd. (Roger Barber thinks F re-married one Elizabeth; evidently d.s.p.)

Francis Keck devised to Anthony Chute, through whom they passed to John:

1. his Dunch wife's family estate North Baddesley Manor, which John sold on for his own benefit;
2 an interest in a Paper Mil1 at Clatterford, near Carisbrooke; Isle of Wight (Deed 1 & 2, June 1756)

"John Tracy, Esq and Mrs Tracy of Stanway in Gloster" were Edward Chute's "dearest friends" who did well from his Will in 1722. Besides the 4 sons mentioned in Burke's, this couple had the twin daughters Mary and Martha born Aug. 1713

We deduce that John was Edward's god-son - from the tone of Walpole's tears that Tracys would claim the Vyne on Anthony Chmte's dying intestate.

If the footnote to Walpole's Letters is broadly correct {see my Tracy note), then John Tracy Keck was a barrister, originally named John Atkyns Tracy, and died in 1773, having married in 1735 Katherine Lindsay (who d. 1788)

I don't yet have the various dates of birth, but "Anthony Tracy Keck, Esquire of Great Tew" above would have been born by 1730, to have a daughter marrying in 1771.

TRACY OF STANWAY

The Tracy family is of interest to the Chutes in so far as Ferdinand Tracy was Katharine Keck's first husband, and their children came with her to The Vyne when she married Edward Chute in 1686.

From 1533 Tracys held Stanway, a great house in a glorious part of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds which is still occupied by their descendants in the female line. The family is, by tradition, of unusual antiquity. Sections of their genealogy posted on Internet (copies attached), contain slight inconsistencies; but Ferdinand undoubtedly lived at Stanway during his brief married life with Katharine.

Documentation for the 'Tracy Peerage Case' adds the information that one of Katharine's Tracy sons, Ferdinand, died (1682) in infancy. Thus she bore 13 children in all - three Tracy and 10 Chute. Early Tracy Lineage

They claim royal ancestry back to Egbert, king of Wessex, by way of Alfred the Great, Ethelred the Unready, and two descendants of Charlemagne!

At the Conquest, Harold de Mantes married Matilda, daughter of Hugh Lupus, and their son John de Sudely married Grace, daughter of Henry de Tracy, Lord of Bamstaple. This established them (a) living in the Winchcombe area of Glos. (containing Sudeley, Toddington, Stanway) (b) adopting the Norman surname Tracy (from town Traci in Normandy). Sir William Tracy of Toddington, Knight, son of John/Grace may have been [though Burke's questions this tradition] the co-murderer of Thomas a Becket. Simon Jenkins in "England's Thousand Best Houses" says he had to do penance by going on a pilgrimage; hence he adopted as crest the pilgrim's shell of S1. James de Compostela.

At the Reformation, Sir William Tracy of Toddington was one of the first to embrace the reformed religion [see wording of his Will quoted in Burke's Extinct Baronetcies].

He married Margaret, dau. of Sir Thomas Throckmorton, of Corse Court, Glos. In 1533 their younger son Richard obtained the lease of Stanway manor from the Abbot of Tewkesbury. Richard then led the commission which dissolved nearby Hailes Abbey, and at about this time he bought the freehold of Stanway.

Richard's elder brother William Tracy, esq. of Toddington had grandson John, 3rd Viscount Tracy, and it was his 2nd son Ferdinand who married Katherine Keck.

The Stanway House history says "in 1677 the Stanway line came to an end and the property passed to Ferdinando Tracy the second son of John 3rd Viscount Tracy of Toddington.

The Tracy line continued at Stanway until 1817 when it was inherited by Francis Charteris the 8th Earl of Wemyss and 4th Earl of March, the son of Francis Charteris and his wife Susan (nee Tracy-Keck) who was the great granddaughter of Ferdinando Tracy".

Burke's: "Ferdinando m. the daughter of Sir Anthony Keck, knt. and was succeeded by his son John Tracy, esq. of Stanway who m. Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, lord chief Baron of the Ex¬chequer, and had four sons: Robert Tracy, John Tracy Keck, Anthony Tracy (who m. Lady Susan Hamilton, sister of the Duke of Hamilton), and Thomas Tracy.

"The male line of this branch has become extinct, and the property of Stanway is in the possession of the Earl of Wemyss, the grandson of Anthony Tracy." Documents for the 'Tracy Peerage Case' (on the Internet) states that Robert married Anna Hudson but d.s.p. and left Stanway to a child of his brother Anthony; that Anthony took the additional surname Keck; and that the issue of Anthony and Susan nee Hamilton soon failed.

Editor's footnote to Horace Walpole letters to Jo1m Chute 21.5.1754:

"John Tracy Atkyns (died 1773), barrister, son of Chute's half-brother John Tracy, m (1735) Katherine Lindsay (d.l788) (Gray ii.199, n.29; 201, n.34).
"John Tracy Atkyns's brother Robert Tracy (1706-67) of Stanway, Glos was MP Tewkesbury 1734-41, Worcester City 1748-54; m. Anna Maria Hudson (Gray ii. 199 and nn 28 & 30)". Frob. error: for J T Atkyns read John Atkyns Tracy (?), but possibly Sir Robert Atkins had a similarly-named son who also had aspirations to The Vyne.

Supporting the Tracys after Ferdinand's Death - 1684-86

The Kecks of Mickleton were near neighbours of the Tracys in Gloucestershire. Ferdinand's early death will have put Sir Anthony Keck in a difficult position. His eldest daughter was now widowed with 2 small Tracy children, and she was too young to take over Stanway alone.

Why resort to the Chutes? Well, the long saga of Dacre v. Chute must have been a matter of near-ridicule among lawyers, so the predicament of the Chute heirs will have been common knowledge. Moreover Sir Anthony, as a young barrister, had known Chaloner Chute at the Bar and may even have visited The Vyne. He now saw an opportunity which, at a stroke, would:

- safeguard his daughter's dignity and make her the chatelaine of another great house;
- please his important neighbours by giving the little Tracys a worthy environment to grow up in, until John reached the age to take over Stanway House;
- incidentally, find a family who could take responsibility for housing his handicapped daughter Anthonina.

Happily, he had the wealth to pay off Lady Dacre and defray the related Parliamentary costs for de-sequestration. Whether he ever considered Chaloner Chute III as a potential son-in-law, we will never know, but CC's early death in October 1685 left Edward as heir. Sir Anthony presumably housed Katharine and the little Tracys at Mickleton for sufficient time for her to agree to marry Edward, and for Sir Anthony and Edward to tie up the Vyne estate by the Marriage Settlement.

By 1686 all the obstacles were removed and Edward took over The Vyne. The young couple were married; Katharine and her children came to The Vyne, and Edward (no doubt at Sir Anthony's insistence) took responsibility for Anthonina and became godfather to little John Tracy.

Chute-Tracy Relationship

After leaving The Vyne, the young Tracys (and John's wife) evidently continued to enjoy a relaxed and happy relationship with their Chute half-brothers and sisters. Francis Chute spent Christmas 1720 at Stanway and wrote a ballad to Mr and Mrs Tracy in appreciation; it is preserved in Glos. County Archives. And Edward's Will (written 1721) is warmly phrased:

"To my dearest friends Mr Tracy and Mrs Tracy of Stanway in Gloster, in testimony of my due sense of the tender, never interrupted more than filial affection for me, as well as my intire love for them - twenty of my whole peices of Broad Gold"

Many years later, Ann Chute's Will (1747) was to leave £100 to "sister Tracy"; this probably means John's sister, but could mean his wife.

For the circumstances in which two of John Tracy's sons adopted the sumame Keck, see separate note.


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