SPEKE, Sir George, 2nd Bt. (1653-83), of Hazelbury, Box, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Oct. 1653, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Sir Hugh Speke, 1st Bt. educ. I. Temple 1671. m. 26 July 1672, Rachel, da. of (Sir) William Wyndham, 1st Bt. of Orchard Wyndham, Som., s.p. suc. fa. 15 July 1661.
Freeman, Bath 1675; commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1677-80.1
A dutiful son to his formidable mother, Speke was doubtless an Independent in religion. His residence lay midway between Chippenham and Bath, and it was for the latter constituency that he was first returned at a by-election in 1675. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but his only committee in the Cavalier Parliament was on the bill for burial in woollen (6 June 1678). He was again marked ‘worthy’ in 1679, but in the Exclusion Parliaments he served only on the committees of elections and privileges. Up in town, he was sufficiently free of his mother’s tutelage to visit the coffee-house in which Edward Sackville denounced Oates as a lying rogue and expressed disbelief in the Popish Plot, and he gave evidence accordingly to the House. He probably paired with Sir William Bassett for the division on the first exclusion bill, for he did not obtain leave to go into the country till five days later. Nevertheless, he was re-elected in August at the top of the poll. He was defeated at Bath despite Presbyterian support in 1681, but replaced a less prominent Whig, Samuel Ashe, at Chippenham, which his father had briefly represented twenty years before.2
Speke died on 14 Jan. 1683, and was buried at Box, under an epitaph ascribed to his great-uncle, Edmund Waller I:
Just unto all relations known
A worthy patriot, pious son.
Whom neighbouring towns so often sent
To give their sense in Parliament,
With lives and fortunes trusting one
Who so discreetly used his own.
A few months later, after the Rye House Plot, he was described as one ‘much inclined to faction’ who had boasted of possessing 80 cases of pistols in his house; but when Hazelbury was searched no suspicious arms were found. On his mother’s death in 1686, the entire property passed to her half-brother, a younger brother of Edmund Petty, who took the name of Speke. She also bequeathed an annuity of £2 to three poor freemen of Chippenham ‘so long as they do give their voices to elect a Member or Members to sit in Parliament as is not popishly affected or against the government of the nation as is now by law established’. But the Hazelbury interest did not survive the change of family.3