father is significant in that he had a large number of children by two
marriages and brought our direct ancestry to London.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
London census for 1891 shows William, Anna and their children
John from Williamís first marriage, living in Bethnal Green - note
places of birth in right hand column.
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.
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.
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.