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Earliest Speake family in Shropshire :

 In spite of extensive searches, there is no evidence of Speake/Speke families living there before  the Lay Subsidy of 1525 records a William Speke of Westbury. The parish registers of the adjacent parish of Pontesbury  indicate  there  were two families by 1550. A Probate is recorded for this William Speke in 1552, but unfortunately  the  Will itself has not survived. The Shropshire families became firmly established in the county, and were later one of the  largest groups in England .

In  Loppington, North Shropshire, there are several references to SPA(C)KE(S), including a William Spake recorded  in  the 1524  Lay Subsidy, and the Lichfield probate of 1538 for William Spacke is probably his. In 1538, Richard, son of  Richard Spackes of Battlefield, near Shrewsbury was apprenticed in Bristol , but this branch appears to die out soon after.

Speake Family Watling Street Church Stretton 1897

But where had the Shropshire Speakes come from ? One theory is that the Speke family moved to Westbury (on the Welsh  border)  at  the time of the Union of England and Wales in 1525, which tried to bring peace to these border areas.  For centuries  the Welsh had invaded this part of England (known as the Welsh Marches) and stolen cattle, burned houses,  and  on occasions killed. In Westbury parish, the grazing grounds for cattle on the western (Welsh) side of the parish were unused in 1537 "..for that the country was then wild and many outlaws and thieves haunting amoung them, by whom their cattle were daily stollen and conveyed away off to the mountains".

Correspondance  to  the newly formed Council of the Marches , based at Ludlow in Shropshire in 1537 speaks  of  "..theftes, murders,  rebellions, willful burning of houses and other scelerous dedes and abhomynable malifactes ... be so rooted  and fyxed in the same people, that they be not like to sease onlesse some sharpe coreccion and punyshmente ... be provyded ".

One  possibility  is that the Shropshire family migrated down from south Lancashire; they were at Burton Wood as  late  as 1479, and some were in Flint , North Wales in the late 1540's. Also we know the name occurred further west in the  Midlands in Coventry , for example; did they migrate west to Shropshire ? This latter proposition is not supported by any available evidence I have seen. Recent DNA tests have shown that my branch of the Shropshire Speake family is not related to the Thomas Speak of Downham Lancs. who emigrated to Maryland USA ca. 1660. See the America pages of this website.

Another  intriguing  coincidence came to light this summer (21 years after I started this study !). The Dukes  of  Rutland (Manners  family)  mentioned earlier as the inheritors of Walter Espec's lands, came to own Haddon Hall in  Derbyshire  by marriage  with an heiress of the Vernon family. The Vernons also owned lands in Shropshire , where some of the  family  had lived  from at least 1436. In 1520 Humphrey and Thomas Vernon, younger sons of Sir Henry Vernon, knight of Haddon,  Derby­shire  and Tong, Shropshire (1445-1515) bought the manor of Westbury, Shropshire. It seems too much of a coincidence  that this date and place corresponds with the first mention of the Speke/Speake family in Shropshire . This will be investigated further.

For several years I worked on the theory that the Shropshire Speakes could possibly have originated in Somerset ,  possibly the younger son of the landed family, or a branch of it. The Shropshire Speakes were financially prosperous, and  literate from  their  earliest times in Shropshire . But although the Somerset Spekes are reasonably well documented in  the  period 1450-1525 for the eldest inheriting sons, the younger sons are infrequently mentioned. I have also looked for other landed families who might have had interests in both Somerset/Devon and also Shropshire , and could have provided the link between the two places, and an opportunity for a disinherited younger son to better himself. This investigation is continuing. DNA testing could be the definitive tool in this quest.

The Shropshire Speake family, from its first appearance at Westbury, was by the 1560's also established at Priestweston in Chirbury  parish, also near the Welsh border. In the 1570's two cases of "Riotous Assembly" were brought against  them  in the  Court of the Star Camber, Palace of Westminster , by more established families in the parish. By the early  17th  cen­tury, they had successfully integrated into the local society with some links by marriage and service into the local gen­try,  and  were  at that time at their most prosperous, leaving PCC and Hereford Probates, and educating  their  sons  at Shrewsbury  School, then "..the best School in England ". This branch also migrated to Herefordshire, although this was  a temporary sojourn.

One member of the Priestweston family, known as "John Speake of Mitton", moved at some time prior to 1591 to the parish of Fitz,  near   Shrewsbury . By the time the Chirbury branch had died out in the mid 17th century, descendants  of  this  John Speake had grown into a large group at Fitz, Montford and neighbouring Shrewsbury , consistently naming their sons Humphrey or Henry, repeated through 8 generations.

During the Civil War, it would appear that many of the Shropshire Speakes were Royalist in their sympathies. They did  not join with the other Monford parishioners in signing a declaration for Parliament in 1646. There is some evidence that they spent the worst years of the war in adjoining parishes.

One clergyman who seemed to be adaptable through the Civil War period and the Act of Uniformity was the Rev. Joseph Speake of  Welshampton, Shropshire . He was a son of John of Mitton, and incumbent there from at least 1636 to 1674. In  a  reli­gious  census made by order of Parliament in 1655, he is described as "... the present incumbent, an  auntient  preachinge Minister his meanes woth £5 per annum". (He was aged 51 !)

Another  large  group  was founded in 1697 at Eaton under Heywood, near Church Stretton by a Henry  Speake  "of  uncertain dwelling".  He  was  probably a member of the Herefordshire branch. This group, centered in a group  of  parishes  beneath Wenlock Edge were to become numerically the most significant grouping of Shropshire Speake families in later years.



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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