The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Alfred (1816-1879) and Ellen (1818-1894) KEYSER

Grave Number 284

Alfred Keyser was born in March 1816 (1) in Upper Clapton, Hackney.  He was the son of Isaac and Rebecca nee Ricardo.  His father was a stockbroker who came from the Keyser broker family.  His birth was registered in the London non-conformist register, as his parents were married in 1808 in the Great Synagogue London, (2) we can assume this register was for the Jewish fatith.  Both his parents originated from Dutch Jewish broker families (3).  Both the Keyser and Ricardo families were key Jewish families accepted into the London Stock Exchange. 

Alfred was not quite two years old when his father died in December 1817. Rebecca was left with five children under the age of eight. On 31 January 1826 Rebecca had her five children baptised at St Swithun and St Mary Bothaw. Whilst her parents were strict Jews, a number of her siblings had converted to Christianity. Rebecca, died in 1838, she was buried at All Souls, Kensal Green on 2 August (4). At the time of her death she was living in Doughty Street, St Pancras, London. Charles Dickens lived at number 48 Doughty Street from 1837 to 1839.

Little is known of Alfred early years and education, we know that he didn’t follow in the stockbroker tradition and that he qualified as a doctor and surgeon, passing his examination on 21 Dec 1837 (5). In 1838 he applied for the position of House Surgeon at University Hospital, London and after a public practical examination he was judged to have been the most proficient and appointed to the role (6).

On 15th June 1840 Alfred married Ellen Ricardo at St George’s Hanover Square, London. Ellen was the daughter of Jacob and Harriot née Levy of Ecclestone Street, Belgravia. Alfred and Ellen were first cousins, Alfred’s mother Rebecca Ricardo was the elder sister of Ellen’s father Jacob Ricardo (Jacob and Rebecca had a brother, David, who was a famous influential British Political Economist). Like the Keyser family the Ricardo and the Levy families originated from Dutch Jewish parentage. Both families were stockbrokers who came to London from Holland where the first stock exchange was created in Amsterdam.

Ellen was baptised, using the surname Ricardo, at Paddington on 17 Feb 1841. The parish register entry gives her date of birth as 14 Nov 1818.  At the time of their marriage Alfred was living at Burwood Place. Alfred and Ellen had the following children:

Col Frederick Charles CB 1841-1920

Emily Mary 1842-1876

Francis Henry 1844-1876

Alfred 1845-1926

Walter William 1846-1876

Alice Ellen 1849-1902

Isabel Cecilia 1850-1917

Constance Emma 1853-1932

Arthur Louis 1856-1924

Leonard Bethell 1857-1929

Their first two children were born in Burwood Place and then sometime between 1842 and 1844 the young family moved to 21 Norfolk Crescent, Hyde Park. In 1847 Alfred was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London. The census returns for 1851, 1861 and 1871 show the family at 21 Norfolk Crescent each time with at least seven live-in servants. But we know from their son Arthur Louis that the family spent the summer in Berkhamsted and returned to London for the Winter (7). Alfred is showing on the voter’s role for 1860 as “occupier of House and Land, Kings Hill Berkhamsted”. The family soon made friends of some of the more distinguished residents of Berkhamsted, Including Mrs Lucas and the Smith-Dorriens.

Alfred had hoped to take the tenancy of Berkhamsted Place but lost out to the Marquis of Hamilton (later the Duke of Abercorn). This was probably the turning point for the building of Cross Oak.  Alfred had a large house erected near Cross Oak and held a special dinner, for the workmen employed there, at the King’s Arms on 8 Aug 1874 to celebrate the covering in of the building (8).

The Keyser home, Cross Oak

Alfred and Ellen sadly lost three of their children in 1876. Firstly, Francis in May, then Emily in July and finally Walter in September.

Alfred died on 14 October 1879 in Brighton where he was staying to try to improve his health. Ellen (9) moved permanently back to London and lived at 91 Eaton Place until her death on 11 September 1894.


  1. His grave says he was born on 24 March, the non-conformist register and his Church of England baptism list his birth as 14 March.
  2. Find My Past- Boyd’s marriage index, 1538-1850 Transcription
  3. accessed 25 July 2018
  4. Burial record on Ancestry accessed 29 July 2018
  5. London Evening Standard 22 Dec 1837
  6. The Lancet London: A journal of British and Foreign Medicine Volume on Page 870-871.
  7. Trifles and Travels – Arthur Keyser (published 1923), Chapter 1 – A Hertfordshire Town.
  8. Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News 22 August 1874
  9. Ellen’s brother, John Lewis Ricardo, was a businessman and politician

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