'A Devon family that has branched out Globally'






Speare - From Devon to East London 

compiled by Paul Speare



This is an account of the male line of the Speare family, tracing back from the great-grandchildren of Edgar Augustus Thomas Speare (1875-1946), my own grandfather, who was the pivotal point in my research.  Since I first began this project in 2000, and produced the first edition of this file, a lot more information has been discovered, much of it due to collaborating with Thomas Peeke, who has also been researching the Speare family (among others) in great detail, and whom I met in the course of my research. 

Other developments in the last five years are, inevitably, connected with the deaths of some family members, notably my own father, Reginald, and mother, Julia, both in 2006, and Jessie, Edgar’s only other surviving child.  They were all fascinated by this project and, therefore, I would like to dedicate this edition to them



The story, for the moment, begins in North Devon, in villages and farms loosely based along the road from Okehampton to Hatherleigh (now the A386).  The villages concerned are Inwardleigh (where the churchyard of St Petroc’s is host to six visible Speare graves, and the nearby Oak Baptist Chapel has two) and Folly Gate, as well as the outskirts of Hatherleigh itself.  Hatherleigh is still, essentially, a small farming town with a significant weekly cattle market, and its own churchyard of St John the Baptist contains a number of Spear graves. 


It seems that there have been Speares (and Spears) in this area of Devon from the earliest IGI 1 records in the mid 16th century, and there are farms which still bear the name ‘Spear’ to this day.2   Although, at this point, it seems that the final ‘e’ in our name is consistent in the records so far, we may find that earlier records are not as specific about the spelling, particularly as literacy was less common in earlier centuries.  However, it becomes much more difficult to trace ancestral links before the establishment of national registers of births, marriages and deaths in 1837, and there was no census before 1841.


By 1861, the focus has moved to Bovey Tracey, a picturesque town on the eastern edge of Dartmoor, and later, a few miles south west to Ashburton, the birthplace of Edgar.  Although it appears that Ashburton occupied a significant place in Edgar’s memory, my research suggests that he could only have lived there for 6 years at the most before he was taken to London’s Bethnal Green by his parents, William and Anna.  They did, however, leave behind them a legacy in Ashburton, as you will later read.


1 International Genealogical Index: records kept by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons)

2 Spears Upcott, Spears Hannaborough, Spears Fishleigh



Contact thomas.peeke@googlemail.com