'A Devon family that has branched out Globally'







Researched and compiled

By  Gilbert Speare,  York.

Email:   gilbert.speare@virgin.net

My Branch of the SPEARE FAMILY TREE begins with my great grandfather WILLIAM SPEARE born in 1815 in the small Devonshire village of INWARDLEIGH, and a descendant of RICHARD SPEARE & MARY CARPENTER who were married on 11 August 1772 in Inwardleigh.

The SPEARE’S of  INWARDLEIGH were a closely-knit family community finding their partners locally or in adjacent villages and were married in St. Petroc’s Church. 

At the beginning of the 19th century little movement took place from the family homestead.  However my story begins when my great grandfather, William Speare  (b. 1815) decided to leave Inwardleigh, one of the first to depart from the family circle

Before reaching age twenty-five, William moved from the family homestead in Inwardleigh to take up farming at Wilberton Farm in Wilberton Village, Yealmpton, close to Plymouth.  The reason for his move is unknown.  Here in Yealmpton three sons and a daughter were born to William and his wife Ann.   The eldest, also named William (born 1839), my grandfather, spent his childhood here, attended the local school, leaving at age 14 to enlist in the Royal Navy as Boy 2nd Class.  He served in a number of ships of the Royal Navy over a period of sixteen years before being transferred in 1870 to HM Coastguard Service for duty at the Lyme Cobb Shore Station, Lyme Regis, Dorset.                                                                                       

Here my grandfather William met Martha Fance, daughter of William Fance whose forbears were also a generation of seafarers living in the remote Essex coastal town of Maldon. Martha’s father was a mariner and later a coastguard which involved several moves from South Benfleet, Canvey Island and the Isle of Wight before finally being posted with his family to the Lyme Cobb Shore Station at Lyme Regis

 A romance blossomed between my grandfather William and Martha, the daughter of his senior coastguard and they were married in Lyme Regis Parish Church in 1871 

They raised a family of twelve, three girls, Edith, Grace and Annie and nine boys, William, Frederick, Thomas, John, Arthur, and Charlie but when they came to name the seventh son they must have run out of names so resorted to numbers and named him Septimus followed by the eighth son called Octavius.  When the ninth and youngest was born (my father) they must have decided that to call him Nonus would be somewhat disparaging so opted for plain George.

 At the beginning of the 1900’s, the lure of opportunities in newly discovered territories led two daughters, Edith and Annie and four sons, William, John, Arthur and Charlie to emigrate to Australia and settle Queensland in and around Brisbane where most of their descendants still live today.  At the latest count, the descendants of these six emigrants number, seventy grandchildren, ninety-three great grandchildren and seventy-five great great grandchildren.

About the same time, William and Martha moved with the rest of the family from the family home in the Devonshire village of Uplyme to Sydenham, South London, where Octavius settled and married, subsequently removing before World War 1 to Patchway, Near Bristol with sons Septimus and George.  Later he and Martha went to live in Swindon with his married daughter Grace Street until his death in1930.  He was buried in Swindon.  Martha, who survived him, was cared for in her last years by her granddaughter, Freda Courtney, in Bristol.  She died there in 1947 at the age of 97 and was buried in Canford Cemetery, Bristol

Of William and Martha’s children who remained in England, four generations of their descendants have spread for business professional or other reasons to London, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Devonshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire, and not overlooking my granddaughter who married an American and emigrated to Tucson, Arizona, USA. 

William and Martha were committed Christians.  Their faith had a profound effect upon their children and grandchildren and has passed on down and remains alive today among the present generations.                                                                                  

William & Martha Speare and family about 1902

Ancestors of Martha Jane Fance

Swindon Family Group

Gilbert's 80th Birthday





Charlie Francis Speare, aged 23 and unmarried, then living at 11,Ramsay Road, Horfield, Bristol, was the first of the family to emigrate to Australia, having been nominated in Australia be Edward Scourse, probably a close friend.  He sailed on the “SS WHAKTANE” which left London on the 27 November 1909 and arrived in Brisbane on the 21 January 1910.

His elder brother William Speare aged 34 accompanied him on the same voyage, with his wife Olive aged 42 and his two children by his first marriage, William aged 9 and Edith aged 8.  They were assisted passengers.

Charlie’s fiancée, Ethel Beavis followed him about a year later and married Charlie in Australia after her arrival in 1911. 

John Henry Speare followed alone in 1910 leaving his wife Elizabeth and family at 94 Princess Street, Swindon, Wilts, until he settled in Australia. 

The next to leave England was Annie Esther Speare aged 23 having been nominated in Australia by her elder brother William Speare. At the time she was living in Bristol. She sailed on the “SS WAIPARA” which left London on the 4 November 1911 and arrived in Brisbane on the 1 January 1912.  Her fiancé, Herbert Henry King probably preceded her as they were married on the 4 January 1912, in Toowong, Queensland, Australia, three days after her arrival 

Edith Sarah Ann, the eldest daughter of William and Martha who had married David Wilkins in England sailed on the same ship as her sister Annie Esther, the “SS WAIPARA” and was accompanied by her husband and their three children, Grace, Sydney and Jane.  They left London on the 4 November 1911 and arrived in Brisbane on the 1 January 1912. 

In 1910 Frederick John Speare, then living at 11 Ramsay Road, Horfield, Bristol, planned to join his brothers William, Charlie and John in Australia.  He applied for emigration along with his wife Emily and his daughter then aged 1 year, having been nominated in Australia by his brother John Henry Speare.  Australian records show his application “REJECTED”, for what reason is not stated. 

John Henry’s wife Elizabeth Speare who had remained in England at 94 Princess Street, Swindon, Wilts, left for Australia having been nominated in Australia by her husband.  She sailed on the “SS CHEMNITZ” together with her two sons, John aged 2 and George aged 1-1/2.  They arrived in Brisbane on the 18 October 1912. 




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