In Yorkshire, we find a wide distribution of the name Speght/Speyght/Speight from the east coast at Burton Fleming near Bridlington, across to Halifax in the West Riding, by the time of the first surviving parish registers. By the mid 1500's this sometimes modifies to Speake. It would appear that the name here has its derivation from the Old English, and not from the Norman French "Espec" of Walter Espec.
Lancashire and Yorkshire 1500- 1700 :
The North Country families after about 1550 are concentrated in two main areas:-
1) the N.E.corner of Lancashire, along the Ribble Valley, especially in the parishes of Downham, Whalley, and Great Harwood. Also just over the border into Yorkshire at Gisburn.
2) In the West Riding of Yorkshire, especially the parishes of Halifax and Heptonstall, the Calder Valley. Before 1700, I have found no evidence of any significant migrations of SPEAKE families from these two areas within the UK. The Speakes in Shropshire and Lancashire appear to have been tenant farmers rather than freeholders. In Yorkshire some Speake families were associated with the woollen and cloth trades from at least 1612, when William Speake of Gisburn is recorded as "Tailor". Also in 1636, Abraham Speeke was a clothier at Heptonstall.
Post 1700 -
Steam power was also finding application in the spinning and weaving trades of Lancashire and Yorkshire, transforming them from their previous "cottage industry" origins to largescale industries in the rapidly expanding towns of Bradford, Rochdale, and Leeds, which saw a rapid rise of population as labour was drawn in from the surrounding country areas. By the late 19th century, members of the family are listed as Worsted Manufacturer, of Bradford; Weaver of Heptonstall; Woolcomber of Keighley - showing migration to the industrial centres.
In the late 19th century at least two families emigrated to Australia and New Zealand from the Halifax area and at least one family from Lancashire. Please view the "Australia and New Zealand" pages for more information
SPEAKE Surname Distribution today:
Although the 20th century has seen the break up of the closely knit family groups which characterised the previous centuries, it is surprising that even today in the UK that the old distributions remain largely unaltered. It came as a surprise to me that in the UK , how regional the variations of the name spelling were. 66% of all SPEAK families are located in NE Lancashire and West Riding Yorkshire, but only 5% occurr in Shropshire, Wales and the West Midlands. For SPEAKE, the situation is reversed; only 12 % in NE Lancs/WR Yorks, 38% Shropshire /Wales/West Midlands. For SPEKE, the figures are more pronounced; 7% and 36% respectively.