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New Zealand:

Family of Robert Gittins Speake

The improving survival rate of children meant that they had to look outside the area of their birth for situations to earn their living when they were old enough to leave home. There were fewer opportunities for employment on the land with the rapid mechanisation of agriculture in the later 19th century. Many Shropshire Speakes migrated eastwards to the Black Country of the Wolverhampton/Birmingham area, some moved to Shropshire's own industrial area, originally centred on Ironbridge which had spread into the Ketley and Dawley areas by the mid 1800's.

Other Speake families moved further away, some to the industrial north. One Church Stretton family moved to the shipbuilding town of Barrow in Furness. And others moved much further, as the example here shows. Australia , Canada and New Zealand were all settled by Shropshire Speake families in this late Victorian period.

This page details the one known Shropshire family who emigrated to New Zealand in the late 19th century. Many thanks to Colin Speake of Cambridge NZ, and Keith Wilson of mmm NZ for supplying information on these families. Also many thanks to Robert Speake of Manchester for supplying information.

Thomas Speake (OA16) was a successful tenant farmer in Shropshire . In 1851 he was farming 80 acres at Buthey Hill, Alberbury with his brother John and sister Mary. Alberbury is about 4 miles NW of Westbury village, where the Speake family had farmed from at least 1525.

In 1859 he moved to a farm at Church Pulverbatch 4 miles SE of Westbury where the 1861 census records him farming 240 acres employing 3 men and 2 boys. He remained there until some time before 1870 when a Trade Directory shows him at Lower Lea, parish of Bishops Castle, some 15 miles south of Westbury.

At Lower Lea Farm Thomas farmed 325 acres with 4 men until some time after 1881 when he was aged 61. In 1891 he is shown as a visitor at Myndtown but still described as a farmer. Where he farmed at that time is not known. He did not leave a probate. He died in 1896 and was buried at Norbury.

Stafford Street, Timaru circa 1909

Henry's children:

Henry PA17: Henry, only 16, the eldest of the three sons was by 1871 farming 300 acres at Wood Lane , Colemere, parish of Welshampton. But his life was short - he died in early 1881 age 25.

James PB17: Was baptised at Church Pulverbatch in 1861, but died in 1862.

Thomas PC17: The second eldest son Thomas age 15 was attending the Back Lane School in Shrewsbury as a boarder in 1871. So it appears that Thomas senior was quite prosperous as a farmer, in settling his eldest son in a desirable tenancy and another son as a boarder in a private school. He may well also have funded Robert's later voyage to Australia .

I have not been able to find Thomas in the 1881 census. In a letter to me, Robert Speake, grandson of Thomas, states that "I have heard it said that there was a brother who went with Robert Speake to New Zealand .". So is it possible that Thomas went with his brother Robert at least as far as Australia ?

Robert PD17:  Robert and three sisters were still at home in 1871.

Robert Gittins Speake arrived in New Zealand in May 1883 aboard the "Waihara" from Sydney Australia. He appears to have left England before the 1881 census, so possibly he tried settling in Australia before deciding to move onto New Zealand . This needs more research. He came out to New Zealand before his three sisters. They were all still in England in 1881, the two younger girls Elizabeth and Mary at home, and their elder sister Emma in service at Aston Hall, Oswestry. The eldest sister Sarah had already married John Tilley at Lydham in 1875. The 1871 census shows us that John Tilley was one of the live in farm servants in his future father in law's house. He was 10 years older than Sarah.

In a letter from Keith Wilson, (a descendant of Mary Speake/Henry Wareing), he states" New Zealand Robert Speake met Arthur Henry Wareing, who also came from Shropshire . One day Robert showed Arthur a photograph of his three sisters, Mary, Elizabeth (Bessie) and Emma. Arthur pointed to Mary and said he rather liked the look of her, and offered to pay her passage out to New Zealand if she would marry him.Mary's parents checked on Arthur's prospects and agreed that Mary should travel to New Zealand."

It seems that New Zealand looked sufficiently attractive that all three daughters duly arrived in New Zealand although at what exact dates has yet to be established. However it would appear that all three sisters had arrived by 1891, as Emma was a witness with her brother Robert at the wedding of their sister Mary to Arthur Wareing in December of that year at Hamilton .

I have found a 1871 census entry for an Arthur H Wareing, living with his mother Ann and sister Jane at Ludlow . He was born early in 1861 (before the census) I have also found the 1861 census for Hopesay where Thomas and Anne and their daughter (Margaret) Jane are shown. These names agree with the information on Arthur and Mary's wedding entry. However I have not yet been able to find a Civil registration entry for Arthur's birth.

Elizabeth (Bessie) was married to a Perry and had 2 sons, one of whom Walter died in WW2. Emma never married.

Please follow the link below for the family tree for Robert Gittins Speake. For more information on his ancestors, please email me using the links on this site.


Robert Gittins Speake trees  Link back to main New Zealand page   



This Speake Family History website focusses on the British Isles and emigrants from there

These emigrants found their way all over the world, and there are pages on this site giving more information to these main areas. (more)

All people with Shropshire origins have been allocated unique codes to identify them and also allow links in my Relational Database. (more)


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