The Keil Family

Canvey's connection to the famous KeilKraft Kits aircraft scale model-makers.

A chance remark by Dudley George gave the Archive the first indication of Canvey’s connection to the KielKraft model aeroplane company.

Dudley said to me ”Do you remember Mr Keil who used to live over by the Lake?”  To which I replied. ”No, he must have been a bit before my time.”  Dudley remembered visiting Mr Keil’s house on the south side of the Lake on a few occasions when his dad ‘Hasty’ was doing some plumbing work there. What most impressed Dudley, then aged about 10years, were two perfect replicas of the Coronation Chair from Westminster Abbey, which Mr Keil had made and were in the house at the time. Dudley learnt that Mr Keil had exclusive access to the original Coronation Chair to reproduce it in every detail. He then added, almost as an afterthought, that Mr Keil had a factory in London and had the first machinery in this country to cut balsa wood and was the originator of the KeilKraft model-making firm.  He also recalled his own amazement when his Dad brought home a piece of balsa wood, probably from Mr Keil. ”It was so light compared to it’s bulk!” As to fate of the replica Coronation Chairs, Dudley believes that one was given to Mr Keil’s daughter, who was married to one of the Bone family from Canvey Village and the other had been sent to America.

116 Greenwood Road, Hackney, the Keil London residence

Armed with all this fascinating information Janet Penn, the Archive’s Editor, set about on-line research into the subject:

According to the 1911 census the Keil family were resident at 116 Greenwood Road, Hackney, London and were listed;

  • Keil Edward(head) Born 1881 Bethnal Green Occupation:Molder in Saw Mills
    Keil Lily.E (wife) Born 1880 Stratford

    Keil Edward Henry (son) Born 1902 Bethnal Green
    Keil  Julia Evelyn (daughter) Born 1904 Walthamstow

The records also show that in 1924 there was a planning application for Mr Edward Keil Esq, 116 Greenwood Road, Dalston, London, for a pair of bungalows in Thisselt Road, Canvey.

  • Pair of bungalows in Thisselt Road, Linde Park
    E. KEIL esq., 116 Greenwood Road, Dalston N
  • Architect: Bowling and Sparkes, Gains Road, Canvey
  • Builder: F. Fisk, Furtherwick Gains, Canvey

The Electoral Register for Canvey Island for 1929 lists:

  • Keil Edward                        Thisselt Lodge, Thisselt Road
  • Keil Elizabeth Lilian                 same address

There is no registration of other family members and we are given to understand that Edward Jnr known as ‘Eddie’ never took up permanent residence on Canvey.

The archive has also discovered that in 1922 ‘Eddie’s’ sister Julia Evelyn (or Visa-versa) she was known as ‘Dolly’, married Clarence (Claude) Mundy Bone, Butcher, Leigh Beck, brother of Horace Bone of Canvey Village Post Office.  The couple had two daughters Florence Doreen b 1923 and Kathleen b1935.

1950 photo from an exhibition

Due to the large number of on-line sites connected to the aircraft model making pastime the archive was able to gather a great deal of info re Keilkraft. We received helpful info in emails from Dudley Webster and Derrick Scott but most significantly Janet Penn was able to contact Derryk Keil grandson of Edward Keil Snr and nephew of ‘Eddie’ Keil. Derryk has sent the following information:

  • I believe my grandfather was an engineer and also a specialist wood machinist and the two sons Eddie and Ron joined him in the family business in Hackney Road London where they produced bespoke reproduction furniture. I was told that at one time they made 3 copies of the Coronation Chair for customers but nobody seems to know why or where they went. When mass produced furniture came about I think it was Eddie junior who went to America and came back with the idea of producing Balsa Wood kits which they did in Hackney Road for some years before the need to move to Wickford to larger premises. I also think it was my grandfather who was the first person to design and patent the first sidecar for motorbikes and I still have the original patent somewhere in the loft!!
  • Eddie senior (my grandfather) was married 3 times and Eddie Jnr and Evelyn Julia (known as Dolly) were children from his first marriage. Julia (or Dolly) married Claude Bone and they had three children Doreen, John who was born in Australia, and Kathleen but I believe Dolly and Claude then divorced and Dolly remarried later on.

KeilKraft EeZiBILT Boat Kits

Also on the Electric Flight’ web site from Canada we discovered this interesting pen potrait of ‘Eddie’ Keil from Bruce Hodgins of Ottowa:

  • When I was 8 or 9 I used to visit the Keilkraft factory in Wickford England. The kits were made in a “workshop” in a big old country home. The owner was Eddie Keil, a short dumpy bald headed guy. I cycled there, went up to the service hatch and said “Could I see Mr Keil please”. Mr Keil himself came to see me and must have taken pity on me remembering his own childhood. He invited me in as if I were a potential investor never mind customer!. I went in his office and he sat me down and asked me what he could do for me. I gave him a list of assorted balsa sizes and he went of to find what I needed leaving me for what seemed like half an hour to savor the sweet smell of balsa coming from the workshop and gazing in fascination at the pile of engines, RC outfits and other “samples” in his office.
  • When he came back I had to admit that I didn’t have enough money to pay for all the wood and he gave it to me as a present. It was obviously a mistake on his part encouraging me, because I went back several times over subsequent years and each time he was very kind and helpful, and we chatted about model aeroplanes and our shared enthusiasm for the hobby.

In conclusion we can assume that long-term Canvey resident, Edward Keil Snr, a very talented maker of reproduction furniture, established his family firm in Hackney. E. London but it was his son ‘Eddie’ who was the driving force to introduce the balsawood aero-modelling concept into the business. This was marketed under the KeilKraft brand name and soon became a success in the early post-war years. Edward Keil would have been able to participate in this but died in 1949. The 1950s saw the soaring success of KeilKraft in full flight when nearly every schoolboy (my ham-fisted self included) must have at least attempted to build a KeilKraft Kit. By this time the company had re-located to Wickford, Essex (not too far from Canvey) and in the 50s extended it’s range into model boats under the ‘K K Eezebilt’ banner. Eventually the company moved to Lancing in Sussex (we do not know the date). Unfortunately Eddie Keil died as the result of an accident on the A 127 in 1968, however it appears that the KeilKraft brand remained in production throughout the 1970s and quite a few kits are available on E.Bay today!

KeilKraft Slicker Mite (32″ span) with Frog 80 engine

The Keil Family’s Legacy Lives on and what of the mystery of the ‘Coronation Chairs’, were there two or three and were they taken across the globe or did one at least stay in the U.K????

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to this story and we look forward to any further comments concerning the Keil family and KeilKraft.

Comments about this page

  • Hi I used to play with Kenny Keil, the son of Edward senior when he lived at Thisselt Lodge until his mum died in 1954. He was 10 years old, then taken to Tottenham to live with relatives.

    He did an engineering apprenticeship and inherited the KeilKraft firm which he ran in Wickford with 200 staff. Thisselt lodge was a bungalow on the corner of Thisselt road and Linde road and was full of great furniture that his dad had made including a lounge with a beautiful polished wood floor that Kenny and I used as a skating rink when his mum wasn’t looking.

    The house was demolished many years ago and the site was still derelict when I looked a couple of years ago. Ken told me this was because rights to the land came into dispute on his mums death. Ken has no knowledge of the Coronation throne [one of at least three] that lived there but heard that it “disappeared” when the house was demolished.

    I made many of KeilKrafts kits which I bought from Timbercraft on the corner of Oxford and High street when we were kids—-I still had to pay full price though. His dads furniture company made parts for the Mosquito bomber during the war.

    I was re-united with Ken recently after 50years. He is now retired after several years manufacturing double glazing. Regards Sparrow

    By Sparrow (10/12/2010)
  • Hi Sparrow Thanks for all this info, I live just a few roads away from the site of Thisselt Lodge so I’ll take a walk and have a look at what’s there now. Re Timbercraft I’ve just postponed a meet-up with Dave Smith (who ran Timbercraft with his Dad) and other mates, hope to reconvene sometime in the New Year, I’m sure KeilKraft Kits will be one of the subjects of conversation. Regards Graham.

    By Graham (12/12/2010)
  • Hi Graham I went there again on Saturday and it is still just a load of brambles. I forgot to mention that the father on Edward Keil snr served in the British army in WW1 as a naturalised briton. The family had changed their name from the original spelling of “Kiel” because of religious persecution in Germany. Regards Sparrow

    By sparrow (13/12/2010)
  • Edward (Eddie) jnr was the son of Edward Keil and his first wife Eva Clara Sapsworth.

    Ronald (Ron) was the son of Edward Keil and his second wife Elizabeth Lilian Lloyd. Derryk Keil is Ronald’s son.

    Kenneth (Kenny) was the son of Edward Keil and his third wife Violet Elsie Bunnett. Kenneth was only five when his father died and only ten when his mother died.

    By Janet Penn (13/12/2010)
  • I was a mate of Kenny Keil in the Billericay 4th Rover Scouts, he got the Queens scout badge, wouldn’t mind saying hello again. We also used to go to the Mecca at Basildon with our prospective wives and danced to the Dave Clarke Five, last saw Kenny at South Woodham Ferrers, then lost touch. If he see’s this Hi kenny and Carol hope you are both fit and well. Best wishes Roy & Jean Kendling

    By Roy kendling (03/03/2011)
  • Yesterday evening I was watching a programme called ‘Victorian Upstairs Downstairs featuring Scone Castle, the original home of the much-travelled Coronation Stone, which for many centuries lay under the King Edward Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey. When,lo and behold, standing in an outbuilding was a replica Coronation Chair. The presenter, antiques expert, Tim Wannacott said it was thought to be a former film prop. Could this be one of the missing chairs produced by Mr Keil Senr?

    By Graham Stevens (15/03/2011)
  • Hi I am an indirect relation to the Keil family I was looking into the Keil and Gude connection and came across your info I live in Chingford London would love to hear if you have any info on Henry Kiel from Hackney and Walthamstow he married my great great step-grandmother about 1900s and lived Clapton east London

    By sue wood (23/04/2011)
  • Facinating history of the Keil family. Know I know why I was named Julia

    By Julia (18/08/2011)
  • Elizabeth Lilian Lloyd was my Great Aunt- her brother was my Grandfather. My father used to tell me about my great uncle “Teddy” and that when he was younger how he used to Cycle (yes cycle) from Walthamstow to Canvey to visit with his uncle and cousins.

    By Lynda M (22/10/2011)
  • My name is Nigel Haddock. My Dad worked at Keil Kraft. I think as sales manager. We lived in Wickford at the time. I have some photos of the factory inside and out as well as trade shots. Probably circa 1960 ish. I only met Mr Keil once as a small boy he came to our house to see dad. Apparently I pointed to him and said. You’ll burst. … my dad was not pleased.

    By Nigel Haddock (03/03/2014)
  • Hello to all I am a granddaughter of Eddie Keil snr from a little farming town of Thorpdale Victoria Australia My parents Alec and Iona Leitch nee Keil came to Aus in 1948 I was born in London in 1946. I have visited U K twice and stayed with cousin Derrek. I would love to find out more about the coronation replica chairs I do have a photo of one would love to know where they ended up if any one knows. I also have been able to purchase some Keil Kraft balsa models which I treasure . Cheers Valvhuof

    By Val Blackshaw (06/08/2014)
  • Hi Val

    Any chance we could have a copy of the photo for the archive?? You can email it to us at

    By Janet Penn (06/08/2014)
  • Hello Val

    I grew up with Ken Keil in Canvey and recently regained contact with him after 50years. He was taken to London when his mum died in 1954. He eventually inherited the Keil Kraft company. He told me that there were three replica coronation chairs made by his dad and is at a complete loss as to what happened to them [it seems he was kept in the dark about several things]

    Sadly their old home of Thisselt Lodge is now just a piece of waste land.

    Good luck

    Robin Howie

    By sparrow (06/08/2014)
  • Hi Val, Thanks for your contact from Australia. It would be really exciting if we could see a photo of one of the Coronation Chair replicas. As to whether they are still extant and their present whereabouts maybe there might be a vague clue in my comment of 15/3/11. Regards, Graham.

    By Graham Stevens (07/08/2014)
  • By Janet Penn (07/08/2014)
  • I was born in 1935 in Windsor Road, Leyton. Not long after; my parents became licensees of The British Lion, Hackney Road, Shoreditch. One day my father picked me up and carried me next door to see the cabinet maker. His Name was Eddie Keil, and one of my lasting memories was to stare in wonder at the large array of rubber driven model aircraft suspended from the ceiling of his workshop, while Eddie and my father chatted. Now, at the age of 79 it is one of my fondest memories. In later life (after the war) I bought and flew various Keil Kraft models, and reading the stories on this website has give me so much pleasure . . . thank you.

    Ted Hobbs

    By Edward Hobbs (15/11/2014)
  • In the Autumn of 1952 I was on an extended leave from a three year stint in the Far East. I learned that the teaching staff at what was then known as the Long Road Primary School on Canvey Island was experiencing problems due to overcrowding. 

    By this time, seven years after the end of WW2, the increase in the Island’s child population occasioned by the influx of wartime refugees from London coupled with the “baby boom” that followed the end of mobilization meant the existing school accommodation was proving woefully inadequate. As very similar problems had afflicted other schools throughout the UK and there was also a general shortage of teachers, an emergency teacher training scheme lasting thirteen months instead of the standard two years had been adopted for discharged Military personnel and this was just beginning to bear fruit. Two such new teachers had been recruited to the Canvey staff and I was to aid one or other of these as, over time, they gained more and more experience.

    To attend the school, I cycled each day to and from my family home in Laindon. This entailed a journey via Pitsea as far as the “Tarpot” thence through Benfleet High Road, over the level crossing at Benfleet railway station and onto the Island by means of the bridge. I vividly recall noting that, on one such journey at high tide, it meant that the water level close by the bridge was very near to reaching the top of the sea wall.

    At the school the shortage of classroom space meant that the school’s assembly hall had been divided into two by suspending a heavy curtain across its middle and two separate classes of some two dozen pupils each had resulted. It was a rather uncomfortable environment both for the teachers as well as the pupils, conversations taking place in the adjacent room constantly being overheard and no doubt causing confusion in the children’s minds. But we did our best.

    To my lasting regret, I was at the school for only a bare five or six week stint and cannot now remember any names, except one, among either the teachers with whom I worked nor the children in the class. I do recall that all the kids were a great delight to deal with as mostly they all are at the age of seven or eight even now. The one pupil’s name I do recall, however, was that of Kenny Kiel. He was one of the class with whom I had dealings and, of course, his family connection with the Kiel model making firm made him particularly memorable. He was even then a knowledgeable little chap and a delight to talk to.

    In the years following the terrible events in the winter of the following term, I have often wondered about the fate of those youngsters, as they were then but who, like me, have now grown old. My memory lapse has meant it was difficult to establish but now, after reading this blog, I know the fate of at least one of that class, thank you.

    By John Bathurst (29/06/2015)
  • Thank you John for adding your memories of your connection with Canvey even if it was only a few weeks. You have given us an insight into the conditions in our schools during the post War/pre flood period which we have not heard about before. We are also pleased you have found out about the member of the Keil family from our pages.

    By Janet Penn (29/06/2015)
  • Thank you for the chance to gather much info about the Keil family & model business in Wickford. I really would love to have contact with friends/family & work colleges of E. Keil & co. I too was a budding aeromodeller in the late 50`s, who went on to finally get my own shop in Colchester in the 1980`s, teaching newcomers the art of building & flying radio control model aircraft. If anybody can spare the time, please E-mail me at:  Thankyou. James Weir,[retired] formally of Collier Row, Romford,Essex. Now near Colchester, Eseex.

    By James Weir. (02/02/2016)
  • Having lost a woodyard in Chiswick to fire, my grandfather emigrated to Florida and was wiped out by the Great Miami hurricane. On his return to the UK he met Kiel and introduced him to Balsa wood. Born in 1919 my Mothers earliest recollections are demonstrating cross style boomerangs in Harrods. Charles Archie Brown was known as Jimmy and worked for KielKraft for many many years.

    By Tim Broxton (10/11/2016)
  • Thanks for this . Great to see we’re still getting info re this page. Graham.

    By Graham Stevens (16/11/2016)
  • Here is an interesting bit of information related to the Keil family home in Thisselt Road. They had a Hillman car that was left in the water of the 1953 flood. Interestingly, when the water had subsided and people returned to the island the old Hillman started with no bother.

    By Dr Alan Whitcomb (02/12/2016)
  • I was a very enthusiastic model builder through out the 1970s and loved Keil Kraft kits. My KK Dolphin left the school playing fields in a thermal and disappeared over Croydon and I never saw it again. I attended a promotion course at Met Police Training School Hendon in about in the Spring of 2008 one of my class mates had the surname Keil. Unusual and but familiar name I thought. Sure enough he was the grandson of Eddie Keil. To my shame I can’t remember his first name now but he did tell me about the loft full of unopened kits he owns and how he was particularly fond of a plastic control line Keil Kraft Hurricane.  

    By Andy Keyte (03/02/2017)
  • I’ve just started piecing together my family tree and this page has been a wonderful insight, thankyou to everyone for their contributions! My great Grandfather is John Bone, son of Claude Bone and Julie Evelyn (Dolly) Keil. John had one son, Keith Bone who went on to have three children; two girls and a boy, my father! Although born in Australia, John moved back to England when he was about 5 but moved back to Australia again when his son was a teenager. From there on the rest of the family have been born in Western Australia. My grandfather remembers growing up at Canvey Island well but also recalls being told that the Keils are originally from Germany, does anyone know how far back that connection begins? 

    By Shari Bone (03/08/2017)
  • According to the 15th Nov 1923 Poor Rate Book for Canvey.

    E. KEIL was described as occupier and Owner of a “Bungalow, Brown with Red Roof” located Oysterfleet Next Gregson. The Gross Estimated Rental was £8.


    By Martin Lepley (03/08/2017)
  • The 1923 Autumn Electoral Roll for Canvey (15th Oct 1923) Shows KEIL Edward, and KEIL Elizabeth Lilian living in the Oysterfleet area of Canvey. They are not in the 1922 Electoral Roll 

    By Martin Lepley (03/08/2017)
  • Thanks Shari for the additional info re the Bone branch of the Keil family. I can confirm that the Keil family are indeed from Germany.

    Edward Keil snr was born in Bethnal Green, Middlesex in 1881 to Henry and Julia Keil. Henry who was born in Germany, naturalised and aged 37 and was a cabinet maker in the 1881 census. In the 1871 census it confirms Germany as Henry’s birth place this time also giving the place name Kriess Giessen.

    Henry and Julia Domney were married Sept qtr 1864 in Hackney District. Henry was naturalised in 1878.

    By Janet Penn (03/08/2017)
  • I currently live in Vancouver, Canada and was fortunate to visit the Solarbo building on the Lancing Building estate 26 years ago. I noticed the Keil Kraft logo in the window, and on making enquiries was advised that a former Keil Kraft employee would come in occasionaly and print off some kits from time to time. I was able to buy 3 kits from the Worthing Model shop and am currently reliving my modeling of 65 years ago making a Fairey Gannet, the same as when I was a teen. Just finished a Neuport biplane with the Spitfire waiting.

    By Dr Peter Munns (27/01/2020)
  • Hi all, it’s amazing how that chance remark by Dudley George nine years ago has continued to bring in so many comments and memories. I am pleased to say that I was told by Tony Mathews that he had recently been contacted by Dudley who is well and living next door to his daughter in Kent.

    By Graham Stevens (28/01/2020)
  • Great to have update on Dudley thanks Graham

    By Janet Penn (29/01/2020)
  • I too was born a “Keil” and my dad sometimes talks about Keil Kraft and our family connection relation. Our side of the family are very secretive and we are unsure when the spelling of Keil was changed but it is indeed german. I have seen a family tree though. I will ask my dad if he knows anything, although he us quite old now.. interesting article though.

    By Alison (23/02/2020)
  • I have spoken to my dad. Edward snr is the brother of my grandfather Frederick. Henry is the brother of Horace. The coronation throne could be in a church in Scotland with is connected to the Keil family. If you would like more info my father is happy to talk to you.

    By Alison (06/03/2020)
  • Thank you Alison but we have direct contact with Derryk Keil and we are really interested in the Canvey connection.

    By Janet Penn (07/03/2020)
  • In 1984 I bought the Keil Kraft balsa wood workshop in Wickford to use for my double glazing company. I did meet with Ken Keil some years ago, who coincidentally also ran a double glazing company. I remember when we originally removed the the balsa wood dust extraction ducting I got totally covered with sawdust. I am now retired but the original buildings are still in Russell Gardens, Wickford. If anyone is interested in viewing the factory on Google Earth, the post code is SS11 8QU. A two storey extension has been built on the front of the balsa wood workshop.

    By N.Hart (04/07/2020)
  • I went to school with Ken Keil at Billericay Secondary School in the late 1950s. I was keen on KeilKraft model aircraft and built quite a few of their gliders and rubber powered aircraft.

    By John Deards (29/06/21) (29/06/2021)
  • Came across this page whilst looking for 00 gauge bits and found a KeilKraft plastic tram kit, This brought back memories of when I lived in Hullbridge which is close to Wickford and got a job working in the offices of Keilkraft. My job was to open the mail and answer letters from customers mainly complaining of bits missing from their kits. I remember 2 typists but can only recall Mavis Davis.I think the designer was called Cliff Goater. I well remember the day Eddie Keil was killed in a road accident. I seem to remember a lorry tried to cross the A127 and Eddies Jag went straight under the trailer. A very sad time. They also sold Matchbox toys and I remember the launch of the plastic control line Hurricane. They also produced a product called “endgrain” which was literally a number of blocks of balsa glued together and sawn across the ends in to thin sheets. It was very pliable and strong and used as the lining in boats. If a new kit was being tested, it would be given to me to build on the basis that if I could make it, anyone could. I did not stay at Keilkraft very long as I have always suffered from itchy feet!

    By Colin Mcgregor (15/07/2021)
  • Fascinating reading through all these posts! My old dad was Arthur “Buck” Adams. He was a printer at Keil Kraft in Wickford from the early 1950’s until he passed away in 1971. He lived in “Chilton”, a Keil owned bungalow in Russell Gardens. As a nipper, I’m absolutely sure Eddie Keil would call into see my dad to get his hair cut! (Dad was a dab hand at being a barber as well!) I’d love to know if anyone remembers my dad.

    By Baz Adams (13/10/2021)
  • I Roger tarry joined Kiel Kraft in 1970ish I worked there
    On staff as the engine repair.when I court up with the backlog off engines.I went on to Floor to help with the
    Plastic moulding machines for the hurricane parts that were all made on site I also helped out in the drawing room under David building models for shows etc and helping out with new models the last one was in the last
    Handbook be for I left . I was taken on by eddy cosh

    By Roger tarry (21/02/2024)
  • This is a fascinating thread, as at the age of 63 I’m recently advised by my GP to “do something I enjoy” so I’m back to my old set of knives, planks of balsa, glue etc and original KK model aircraft plans. It’s a great hobby – ultra creative and motivating and sad that my kids showed no interest.

    An early comment here said that the original Mr E Keil was a furniture maker in the London area, and then said he made parts for the De Havilland Mosquito…..could the be how KK knew where to source balsa wood, as the Mossie famously is made from sheets of thin ply separated by balsa (an early and highly effective version of “composite”, now back in vogue). If true, this would be brilliant, as it would create a direct connection to Hermann Goering’s envy of the Mosquito, being quoted along the lines of “every **** furniture maker in England is now making this beautiful thing”. The Mossie was for quite a while, the highest performance military aircraft in the world. Enough said!

    By Russ Payne (Dr) (09/03/2024)

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