CFHS code : ED51

Parish : St Edward

Inscription : LM WALTER KEEPING MA b Jan 6 1854 d Feb 22 1888

Monument : Stone cross (broken)

Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey

Lat Lon : 52.203087, 0.13730403 – click here for location

The plinth in July 2021.


This small plinth is roughly 9 rows west of the central path close to the south boundary of the parish of St Edward. The grave register places Walter’s grave 26 rows from the west wall and his mother & brother 25 rows from the west wall. The inscription on the east face can be read in sunlight.


Loving Memory of  WALTER KEEPING MA born Jan 6 1854 died Feb 22 1888
“Thy will be done”

Walter Keeping (6  January 1854 – 22 February 1888)

Walter was the son of Henry and his first wife Ellen Fripp.   He was born in Milford, Hampshire, where his father was a ‘practical geologist’.  Henry and Ellen had six children, of which Walter was the third eldest.   By the mid 1860’s the family had moved to Cambridge where Henry Keeping became the curator of the Woodwardian Museum on Senate House Passage.  [The Museum was later known as the Geological Museum, and then the Sedgwick Museum]. Henry Keeping was very experienced in geology, and a little of his life can be gleaned here.

Walter’s mother Ellen died in late 1868 at the age of 39. His father remarried in  September 1870 to Ellen Neck.  Henry had a further 11 children by his second wife, so Walter had 15 siblings in total.  His step mother was only 5 years older than he was.

In 1871 [aged 17] Walter is named on the census records as an assistant curator at the Woodwardian Museum, helping his father. He went to Christ’s College in April 1871, and got his Natural Sciences Tripos [1st Class] in 1876, BA in 1877 and MA in 1880.  He was awarded the Sedgwick Prize in 1880.

He became Professor of Geology at University College, Aberystwyth 1877-1878, before taking up a post as Custodian of the Museum at York in 1880. He married Margaret Kemp in 1881.  Margaret was from Cambridge, and her father Charles was a University Marshall.  Walter and Margaret had a daughter Dora Margaret in April 1882.

According to a History of the Yorkshire Museum,  Walter Keeping developed a form of paralysis shortly after moving to York which affected his ability to work.  He retired from the museum in 1883 as a result of his ‘mental infirmity’.  He died in a hospital in Cheadle, Cheshire in 1888 at the age of 34 and was buried from 17 Emery St.

His widow Margaret returned to Cambridge with their child Dora and worked as a matron of childrens homes and orphanages.  She never re-married and died in 1933 aged 80 years old.

The daughter Dora Margaret Keeping [1882-1963] lived in Cambridge for the rest of her life.  She lived with her father’s Step-sisters at 16 Aylestone Road, and later at Great Shelford.  She died at Chesterton Hospital in 1963.

Reginald Edwin Keeping (c1856  – March 20 1879)

Reginald was born in Milford, Hampshire and was the younger brother of Walter.  His death was announced in the paper. He was only 23 and as he died before the 1881 census we do not know if he was employed. However we do know that when he was 18 he had got drunk and stolen a cigar holder from a local tobacconist. At court he pleaded guilty but said he had intended to return it. He was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment.

He died at the family home in Senate House Passage

Ellen Keeping née Fripp (c 1829 – 1868)

Ellen (Helen in some transcripts) was born in Royston. She married Henry Keeping in the the 3rd Q of 1849 in the registration district of  Lymington, Hampshire.

Henry and his 2nd wife are buried in St Andrew’s church yard in Chesterton. Henry died in 1924 at the age of 97.

Claire Martinsen


CFHS Transcripts of Burial and Grave records
British Newspaper Archives


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Walter Keeping