First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Thomas Henry KEEN (1897–1916)

Thomas Henry Keen or Keene was born in New Headington in 1897, the son of Charles Frederick Keen (born at Headington Workhouse to a single woman, Emily Keen, in 1861 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 4 August) and Martha Gardiner (born in New Headington in 1868 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 26 July).

Thomas’s father Charles Frederick Keen was a bricklayer’s labourer, but was away from Headington at the time of the 1891 census; his future wife, Martha Gardiner (21) was living on the south side of Wilberforce Street (then called William Street), looking after her father and brother.

Thomas's parents were married at St Andrew’s Church on 22 May 1892 and had seven children:

  • Margaret Emma Keen (born in Headington in 1893 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 19 March);
    died aged six months, buried in Headington Cemetery on 7 July 1893)
  • Percy George Keen (born in Headington in 1894 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 22 April),;
    died aged 2½, buried in Headington Cemetery on 16 October 1896)
  • Ada Keen (born in New Headington on 20 September 1895 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 10 November);
    died aged four  months, buried at Headington Cemetery on 28 January 1896)
  • Thomas Henry Keen (born in New Headington in 1897 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 23 May)
  • Emily Elizabeth Keen (born in New Headington in 1898 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 4 December)
  • Frederick Charles Keen (born at Wilberforce Street in 1900 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 9 September)
  • Rose Keen (born at Wilberforce Street in early 1902 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 6 July);
    died there aged fifteen months, buried at Headington Cemetery on 8 May 1903 [Erroneously described in register as having died at William Street, New Marston rather than William Street, New Headington]

Thomas’s parents began their married life in Old Headington, but by 1895 had moved across the London Road to New Headington, with their address specified by 1900 as Wilberforce Street (then called William Street). Their first three children died in infancy between 1893 and 1896.

At the time of the 1901 census Thomas (4) was living at Wilberforce Street with his father Charles (40), who was still a bricklayer's labourer, his mother Martha (34) and, his two surviving siblings Emily (2), and Frederick (ten months). His maternal grandfather Charles Gardiner (76), described as a farm labourer, was also living with them

Less than two years later at the beginning of 1903 Thomas’s father Charles Keen died at the age of 43 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 12 January. Thomas's baby sister Rose died four months later.

At the time of the 1911 census Thomas (14) was employed as a house boy and was living in Wilberforce Street with his widowed mother Martha (41), who was now working as a laundress, and his siblings Emily (12) and Frederick (10), who were still at school. Thomas’s grandfather, Charles Gardner (84), now described as an old age pensioner, was still living with them: he died two years later and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 11 November 1913.

Poppy In the First World War Thomas Henry Keen served as a Private in the 1st/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 5654). He was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in France on 5 November 1916 at the age of 19, and has no known grave.

He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 10A and 10D) and on the roll of honour of All Saints’ Church.

All Saints' board


Thomas’s mother
  • Mrs Martha Keen died in Oxford at the age of 65 in 1934.
Thomas’s sister
  • Emily Elizabeth Keen was living at 2 Wilberforce Street when she married George Ovenden at All Saints’ Church on 3 January 1920. They had two children born in the Headington district: Thomas G. Ovenden (1920) and Emily Ovenden ( 1921).

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website