A History of the Speake families in Shropshire: 'The River of Lives' by John D. Speake
This book is the result of 45 years of part-time research into the Shropshire Speake families. It describes the history of the author's family through thirteen generations, as well as all other associated Shropshire Speake families. In some cases it follows them across the nearby border into Wales, and the possible reasons for their migration. It focuses on the period prior to the advent of census returns and the civil registration of births, marriage and deaths in the early nineteenth century. Prior to this date research becomes more difficult and time consuming, and the aim of this book is to help Speake family researchers to link their family trees back to this earlier period. This approach has enabled this book to be kept a reasonable size. It is the story of periods of prosperity in the late sixteenth century, with accompanying social advancement. This is contrasted with the problems of two court cases brought against them in the infamous Court of the Star Chamber in London, 150 miles distant. After the mid-seventeenth century they lived the precarious existence of the rural poor, at the mercy of poor harvests, poverty, accidents, chronic illnesses and sudden death. Outline family trees for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are included, to help those interested in their Speake family to connect with the earlier information presented here. In particular, the very large Eaton-under-Heywood and Westbury families are comprehensively shown in outline. This reconstruction was made possible by the use of a large computerised relational database. Shropshire was an early leader in the Industrial Revolution and the new industries in Ironbridge and Ketley provided alternative employment for the rural poor. The later nineteenth century growth of local government also provided new opportunities for employment and increasing prosperity. The advent of the railways made it easier to seek work further afield and many Speake families migrated to the industrial districts of Lancashire, South Wales and the adjacent `Black Country' of the Midlands. More distant migrations were made to Canada, Patagonia, Australia and New Zealand. This book is a record of often short, hard lives, and although documentary evidence is hard to find, their lives can bring surprises. This book contains 130 family trees, nine specially commissioned maps, two original artworks and an extensive index. A comprehensive collection of Appendices contains summaries of all known Speake wills, lay subsidies, marriages licences and hearth tax entries and many other documents. These make this volume an essential addition to the book collection of family historians and others with an interest in Shropshire history and the Speake families.