'A Devon family that has branched out Globally'






Speare - From Devon to East London 

compiled by Paul Speare


William (1841-1913)

Edgarís father is significant in that he had a large number of children by two marriages and brought our direct ancestry to London.


As William (20) was living with his mother, and carpenter Richard Lock, in 1861, it is quite possible that he learnt his own carpentry skills from his stepfather.  Their home was in Mary Street, which runs along the top of the town of Bovey Tracey, connected to Fore Street (the town centre) by the very steep Hind Street, and at the convergence of the two streets at the Town Hall.  Unfortunately, this census does not give a house number or name, but the majority of properties in Mary Street are old or refurbished cottages, so it is quite possible that the family lived in one of them.  Only three houses away lived Sarah Ann Prouse (19), listed as a laundress, and second daughter of shoemaker, Thomas Prouse.  In 1862 William and Sarah were married.


The 1871 census for Bovey Tracey finds William and Sarah, now 30 and 29 respectively, living in Hill Street, Bovey Tracey (Hill Street was the higher part of Mary Street, but is no longer named separately).  Williamís widowed mother, Christian (60), is living with them, along with their five children: Caroline (8), William (7), Bessie (5), John (3) and Annie (1).  All would seem to be well in Bovey Tracey, but this was about to change in unfortunate circumstances as Sarah died the same year, age 30. 


Our next reference point is ten years on, where we find Caroline (18) and Bessie (15) living with their maternal grandfather, Thomas, but no record of William or his other children.

At the time of the 1871 census, in Cad Lane, Ashburton, lived a widow, Mary Ann Thomas, and her two daughters, Mary (19) and Anna Maria (18).  They worked in the local wool trade as serge weavers and wool sorters.  William remarried in early 1873 to Anna Maria Thomas, and their first child, Jessie Ann Thomas Speare was born in Back Lane (also known as  Cad Lane), Ashburton on 18 May the same year.  How William came to meet Anna will probably remain unknown, but he could well have been working in Ashburton at the time, as it is only a few miles from Bovey Tracey.


Two years later, on 26 April, 1875, Edgar Augustus Thomas Speare was born to William and Anna, again in Back lane, Ashburton.  The birth certificates of Jessie and Edgar both list Williamís occupation as Ďcarpenterí

The next census of 1881 records William, Anna and Edgar as living in living in London, although, interestingly, Jessie (7) is living with her maternal grandmother and aunt, still in Cad Lane, Ashburton.  They must have arrived there by 1879, as Arthur Henry (William and Annaís second son) was born in Bethnal Green that year.  Whether we will ever find out the circumstances and method of their considerable journey from Ashburton to London, and why Jessie did not accompany them, is doubtful, but remains a subject of considerable curiosity.  As mentioned earlier, it seems that there is a possibility of Williamís father, Samuel, already living in London.  Also, William Jr and John, Williamís sons, and Annie, all from his marriage to Sarah in Bovey Tracey, are listed as living with the family at 232 Hackney Road, Bethnal Green.  Ten years on, they had moved to 27 Gales Gardens, Bethnal Green, and the 1891 census lists: William (50) carpenter, Anna (38) wife, John (23) boot finisher, Edgar (15) carpenter, Arthur (10), Alice (7), William (5) and Beatrice (1); the four younger children all being born in Bethnal Green.  Edgar had begun his carpentry apprenticeship in the February of that year (with George Treble, shop fitter and showcase maker of Dalston), thereby following in his fatherís footsteps.  Incidentally, in 1891, Jessie (17) was still living in Ashburton with her Aunt Mary (40), both wool sorters.  There is one further birth registered in Bethnal Green, in 1882, for an Albert Speare, which we can presume was a son of William and Anna, but the child died early the next year.

















The London census for 1891 shows William, Anna and their children (including Edgar),

and John from Williamís first marriage, living in Bethnal Green - note places of birth in right hand column.

Interestingly, there are two registry entries which point to William Jr and Annie (from the Bovey Tracey family) living in the Dartford/Woolwich area on the Kent/London borders.  I should stress that, at the point of writing, these references are yet to be confirmed, but would account for their names not appearing in any further census in Devon, and suggest that they may have accompanied William, Anna, John and Edgar to London.   The entries are for the untimely death in Dartford of a William (20) in 1884, and the marriage of an Annie in 1890, Woolwich.  The ages appear to match those of Williamís children and I have seen no other registry entries for a Speare family in that area of the country.


William died in August 1913 and was buried in a Ďpublic graveí at Manor Park Cemetery, Sebert Road; the graveís approximate location is given in the cemetery records (area 126) but the ground has now been made over.  Until his death, although it is not clear from when, he was living at Meadows Dwellings, Mansford Street, Bethnal Green, as was his daughter, Alice, before her marriage.  Beatrice was living in Temple Dwellings, Temple Street (one street along) until her marriage in 1911.


Williamís Grandchildren

Jessie Ann Thomas Speare married in 1902 to Alfred George Steer at the Wesleyan Chapel, Ashburton.  An Alfred George Steer was registered in Newton Abbott (registration district for Ashburton and Bovey Tracey) in 1906, and is very likely to be their son.  There are other registered births with the name Steer around that time, some of which are strikingly similar to those of Jessieís existing or future relations in London; Violet Beatrice, William Thomas and Reginald William, so these are all possibilities (and give me reason to believe that she remained in contact with her London family).  Beatrice married in 1911 to John Richards, Bethnal Green.   Alice married in 1912 to John Compton, Bethnal Green.  John died during WW1.  Their children include John & William, twins (1913), John (b.1915) and Irene Maud (b.1916).  Arthur married  Maud Robertson in 1915, Islington.  Bessie was married in 1892 in Newton Abbot area to George Mountford.  Annie was married in Woolwich to Thomas Henry Norgrove, they had the following children:  Francis Henry Norgrove (1891), Bessie Norgrove (1893), William Thomas Norgrove (1895), Thomas Henry Norgrove (1897) & Dorothy F Norgrove (1901).  Caroline was married in 1885 to Joseph Gale and had 3 Children Loveday Frances Gale (1889), Dorothy Caroline Gale (1896), Donald Redvers Gale (1900).   John was married to a Mary and living in Toronto in 1911 with a daughter, unsure of exact name.







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