SPEKE, George (1623-89), of White Lackington, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 1 May 1623, 1st s. of George Speke of White Lackington by Joan, da. of Sir John Portman, 1st Bt. of Orchard Portman, Som. educ. travelled abroad 1639. m. 21 May 1641, Mary, da. of Sir Robert Pye† of Westminster, 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1637.1
J.p. Som. 1643-5, July 1660-3, commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-80, sheriff 1661-2; freeman, Exetere 1670; dep. lt som. 1689-d.2
Speke’s ancestors were of Devonshire origin, and represented that county as early as 1332. They settled at White Lackington about the middle of the 15th century. Speke’s wardship was sold for £1,800 to an Exchequer official, whose daughter he later married. His wife was an ardent Presbyterian, and her brother, Sir Robert Pye, married the daughter of John Hampden†. Speke, however, went into the King’s quarters to preserve his estate, valued at £1,410 p.a., and was taken prisoner at the fall of Bridgwater. Although he had been an entirely passive Royalist, he had to pay a fine of £2,390. He was under suspicion during the Interregnum, but took no part in Cavalier plotting.3
After the Restoration, Speke became an incautious associate of ‘fanatics’ and an outspoken critic of the King’s government, and was removed from the commission of the peace in 1663. It was his declared opinion that the nation was governed by the King’s mistresses and that the Anglican bishops were all Popishly affected and betrayers of their country. The Presbyterians, on the other hand, he considered honest men who would keep to a right course. Speke’s wife was regarded as one of the prime encouragers and frequenters of conventicles in the west country. After his success at the second general election of 1679, he entertained the Duke of Monmouth at White Lackington. An information was laid against Speke and two of his sons for treasonable words, though no action appears to have been taken. He became a member of the Green Ribbon Club, and was re-elected after another contest in 1681, but left no trace on the records of the second or third Exclusion Parliaments. It was reported that he kept a stock of arms to use against the Duke of York and the Papists, but when White Lackington was searched after the Rye House Plot nothing was found. Within the next two years, however, his son Hugh and his son-in-law John Trenchard were both indicted upon charges of treason, and Speke himself was arrested for helping Trenchard to escape. Monmouth’s invasion brought further trouble; Speke, his wife, and his sons were all implicated and the fourth son, Charles, was executed. In 1687 a payment of £5,000 secured a pardon for the surviving members of the family. Speke joined William of Orange upon his landing in England, but apparently did not stand for the Convention. But on 10 May 1689 he petitioned the House for compensation for his losses. Ten days later, however, Sir Robert Cotton II reported that his allegations of irregularities in the judicial proceedings were groundless. He died on 2 Dec.4