The Keys Brothers

Death of three brothers

I am looking for more information about the death of my three great-uncles. Arthur James 16, William Charles 24 and Harry John 26 were all killed in a motorbike accident on Rayleigh Road (somewhere between The Woodmans and Victoria House Corner.) This happened on 4th June 1928.   Here are the funeral pictures.

Harry "Jack"
G Ridge / S Terson
G Ridge / S Terson
G Ridge / S Terson

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  • Hi Stuart.
    All I can recall is that my dad Jim Keys, died on the 14th of February 1978. He was married to Gladys , née Bevan. He worked at Delta Metal and also Siemens. He was an Air Raid Warden during the war and our house was destroyed by a doodlebug in July 1944.

    By jim keys (14/04/2021)
  • Hi James, if you can let me have year of birth or death of your family I can trace them to see how they are related to the Keys family of Thundersley. Kind Regards Stuart

    By Stuart Terson (04/04/2021)
  • My grandad William Keys was a Thames sailing barge master. He had four sons, Fred, Jim, Bob, and Tom. All worked on or around the river in Greenwich/Charlton. We used to visit relatives in Thundersley in the 50s.

    By James Keys (02/04/2021)
  • Hi Everyone,
    I have been researching the Keys family tree for about 16 years. Would be interested in talking to any family members. My Line is Sidney Daniel Keys. But have info on all others I think.

    By Stuart Terson (14/09/2020)
  • Hi Everyone,
    Sidney Daniel Keys was my Great Grandfather so the 3 Brothers were my Great Uncles. I have been doing the Keys family tree for about 16 years, if anyone wants more info please feel free to email me at
    There are a few bits I may have missing.

    By Stuart Terson (14/09/2020)
  • Mel and Samantha; I think Barbara is our great aunt if she’s Nanny Joan’s sister; so Mel you must be our second cousin. It was my uncle John who told me about the Keys brothers yesterday

    By Shane Davis (27/06/2020)
  • Hi Mel, I’m Samantha Davis; Barbara is my auntie and Joan is my nan so I think we must be cousins of some sort.

    By Samantha Davis (27/06/2020)
  • Hi Mel, my Nan is Joan Davis (maiden name Keys) on her birthday yesterday she turned 90

    By Shane Davis (27/06/2020)
  • Sid was my great grandfather, Emily Keys was my grandma. My father is Mick Wilkins and my name is Oliver William Charles Wilkins. It’s blown my head back to see these pictures.

    By Oliver (16/06/2020)
  • Hi Stuart,
    My nan was Barbara Keys (maiden name) her father was John Keys. She had 2 sisters and a brother. One of her sisters is called Joan.

    By Mel (07/06/2020)
  • Their father, Sid Keys, was my grandfather’s brother, John James Keys, born 1894 the last-born child of Daniel Keys.

    By andy keys (14/05/2016)
  • Hi Mel,

    I can’t find a Barbra in the family tree that ties up,  can you help please?

    Diane, That is really nice to hear, I was very close to my nan (their youngest sister) so I try and pop up once a year or so to check their graves and that of their parents. Sadly their sister Mabel’s grave is now covered by the badgers. 

    By stuart terson (06/05/2016)
  • I have always stopped and looked at those poor boys’ grave for many years, I have boys and can only imagine what their family went through. What a tragedy.

    By Diane Doe (19/04/2016)
  • I often stop at their graveside and pay my respects as I pass by in St. Peter’s (on almost a daily basis ) and it’s good to be able to see their photographs to put faces to the names on the gravestone.  Having two sons myself I can only imagine the awful loss felt by their parents .

    I enquired at the parish office who gave me some information and this article fills in the gaps .

    May their dear souls rest in peace . 

    By Paul glynn (30/03/2016)
  • Hello, my grandmother was Barbra Keys. They were her uncles. They sadly had a little brother who died aged 4 from another tragic accident and I think there were another two members of the family that died locally in another motorbike accident.  

    By Mel Longhurst (05/02/2016)
  • Hi Andrew, I take it you are Elizabeth’s son? And Susan, was your father Dennis? I remember meeting your grandfather, Great Uncle George (Sidney Jnr) 

    By Stuart Terson (17/04/2015)
  • Pat Keys and I were friends when we were in the same class at Thundersley Primary School.

    By Ve Hutley (03/04/2014)
  • Dear Susan Smith, the spelling of names in the transcript above is as it appeared in the newspaper in 1928. Any complaints, I am afraid, ought to be made to the Essex Newsman. The Keys family will also be mentioned in my forthcoming history of Thundersley and Daws Heath. Any more historical info and/or images would be most welcome.

    By Robert Hallmann (25/03/2014)
  • Edith Keys was my grandmother on my father’s side. She was the wife of Sydney (one of the surviving brothers) not his sister.

    From Susan Smith (née Keys)

    By Mrs. S P Smith-Keys (22/03/2014)
  • The name should be spelt KEYS not KEYES.

    The 3 boys were my great uncles.

    By Susan Smith (22/03/2014)
  • Stuart, 

    Edith Keys who was their sister was my grand mother on my mother’s side. She lived in Common Lane until she passed away. The land next to her house is now called Keys land and I remember playing on the land when it was still barns, where they used to keep the Keys coal lorries.

    I now live in Leigh-on-Sea and my mother still lives in Thundersley. If you need to get in contact please let me know and we can exchange emails.



    By Andrew Evans (06/02/2014)
  • A news item from Essex Newsman, Saturday, 9 June 1928. (Research Karen Bowman) 

    ROAD SMASH AT THUNDERSLEY Three brothers, sons of Mr. Sydney D. Keys, corn chandler, of Rayleigh Road, Thundersley, are dead as the result of a motor cycle combination coming into collision with a motor car at Thundersley on Monday night. They are: Charles Wm. Keyes, 24, coal merchant, Glenusk, Rayleigh Road, Thundersley; Harry John Keyes, 27, carman, Laws Cottages, Common Lane, Thundersley; and Arthur Jas. Keyes, 17, carman, who was living at home with his father. 

    Charles was killed outright; Harry died in Southend Hospital just before midnight; and Arthur expired in the same institution on Tuesday. 

    The accident occurred at a bend in a road about 200 yards on the Thundersley side of Victoria House Corner. Harry was the driver of the combination, Charles was on the pillion, and Arthur was in the sidecar. The car with which the cycle combination collided was driven by Mr. George Main, commercial traveller, of Heath View, Daws Heath Road, Hadleigh, who had with him his wife and their eight-year-old son Robert.

     The impact was a very violent one, for the combination was completely smashed, and the car is beyond repair. Charles Wm. Keyes was thrown from the pillion, and his head struck a post on the roadside. He was picked up dead, his skull being smashed. Harry and Arthur, both of whom were conscious, were taken to a house near by, pending their removal to hospital. They both had terrible head injuries, and Arthur had a broken leg as well. They were attended by Dr. Battersby, of Rayleigh, and Drs. Grant and Bevan, of Hadleigh. After the collision Mr. Main, whose hands were cut by the broken wind screen and chest injured by contact with the steering wheel, managed to scramble out of the car. The boy Robert sustained a fractured jaw, and Mrs. Main was severely bruised. A passing motorist took Mr. Main and his son to Dr. Jameson, of Rayleigh, who later drove them to hospital. The Rayleigh ambulance, in charge of P.c. Clark, took Harry Keyes to hospital, and Arthur was conveyed there in the St, John ambulance from Southend. The body of Charles William was removed to the Hadleigh mortuary. Mr. Main was able to leave the hospital after his injuries had been attended to, but his son was detained. 

    At the inquest on Thursday, Fredk. Reeve, Thundersley, said one of the occupants of the combination was flung high into the air and fell on a garden path. Just before that, he said, he saw the combination coming at a very fast speed, trying to pass a car on a bend. The driver lost control, and so hit the approaching car. The speedometer of the combination, it was stated, was found to be wedged after the accident, registering 42 miles per hour. Verdict, Accidental death.

    By Robert Hallmann (31/08/2013)

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