SPEKE, Sir Thomas (1508-51), of White Lackington, Som. and London.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Mar. 1508, 1st s. of John Speke of White Lackington by Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Arundell of Lanherne, Cornw. m. (1) by 1530, Anne, da. of Richard Berkeley of Stoke, Som., 1s. George 1da.; (2) 1549, Elizabeth, wid. of William Willoughby, 1da. suc. fa. 6 Dec. 1524. Kntd. bef. July 1538.2
J.p. Som. 1532-d.; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1539-40, 1549-50; keeper, Neroche Forest, Som. Dec. 1539-Apr. 1542, Eltham park, Kent 1547-d.; sewer, the chamber by 1540, gent. by 1544; surveyor, ct. augmentations, Som. c.1540-d.; chief steward, lands formerly of Glastonbury abbey 1540, East and West Greenwich, Kent c.1547; commr. benevolence, Som. 1544/45, chantries, Dorset, Som. 1548, relief, Kent, Som. 1550; supervisor of kerseys, London, Southampton June-Nov. 1549.3
Originally of Devon, the Speke family had acquired considerable lands in Somerset during the 15th century and Sir John Speke, grandfather of Thomas, had made his main seat at White Lackington. On reaching his majority in 1529 Thomas Speke succeeded to rich estates in both counties, as also to the lands and half the goods of his uncle Sir George Speke. For a few years he seems to have resided quietly at White Lackington; between January and March 1535 he spent some weeks at Calais with his friend Viscount Lisle the deputy there, but on his return he seems again to have devoted himself mainly to local affairs.4
It was from 1538 that Speke’s career gathered momentum. His knighthood in that year was succeeded early in the next by his election to Parliament for his shire. He probably began his career at court at about the same time, and his attendance there, and in the Commons, meant that the shrievalty which quickly followed must have been largely discharged, in his absence, by the under sheriff. Following the dissolution of the monasteries and the attainder of the Marquess of Exeter in 1539 he obtained lucrative posts under the new augmentations office in Somerset; he seems, however, to have purchased little land himself. He probably continued to live much at court, where he was clearly a favourite of the King. He may have sat in the Parliament of 1542 (for which the names of the Somerset knights are unknown), and certainly did so in that of 1545; his combination of royal favour and local prestige must have conduced to his ascendancy. In 1544 he led a troop of horse on the campaign in France and in November 1545 he was licensed to retain 40 persons in his livery. Like his brother-in-law Sir Maurice Berkeley he was included in the King’s will, receiving a legacy of 200 marks. Speke was one of the challengers at the tournaments in honour of Edward VI’s coronation, and although not elected to the new Parliament appears to have remained in favour; he was made steward of several royal manors in north-west Kent and obtained a lease of Eltham manor and other property there. In December 1549 he bought from the bishop of Exeter the manor and borough of Paignton, Devon, although a month earlier, on the fall of the Protector Somerset, he had vacated the post of surveyor of kerseys in Southampton and London granted to him in June 1549.5
On 10 July 1551 Speke was struck down by the ‘sweating sickness’ which also carried off a number of his fellow-courtiers in that month. Having made his will on the 11th, he died the day after at his house in Chancery Lane and was buried at St. Dunstan’s in the West. He left to his son all his lands, leases, jewels and cash, to his wife £240 ‘in old gold’, half his household stuff and the manor of Dawlish for life, and to his two daughters 500 marks each at their marriage. He asked that all leases and copyholds which he had made but not yet confirmed should be fulfilled. As executors he appointed his son and wife, and among the overseers were (Sir) William Herbert I, Sir Thomas Cheyne, (Sir) Hugh Paulet (his fellow-knight in 1539) and Alexander Popham. The will was proved on 18 July 1551 by his son, and by sentence of 14 Nov. 1552 was pronounced valid except for the bequests to the widow, which were nullified by her adultery.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2].
- 2. Age and birthday given in fa.’s i.p.m., C142/44/119. Collinson, Som. i. 67; Devon N. and Q. xxi. 151 seq.; C142/95/38; LP Hen. VIII, xiii.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, v-xxi; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 19; CPR, 1547-8, p. 184; 1548-9, pp. 136, 337; 1553, pp. 355, 359; APC, iii. 436; PCC 18 Bucke.
- 4. PCC 39 Porch; C142/50/121; LP Hen. VIII, viii, ix.
- 5. Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii. 216-25; LP Hen. VIII, xiv-xvi, xix-xxi; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, p. ccci; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 184, 188; 1548-9, p. 337; 1549-50, p. 50.
- 6. Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 7; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(1), 493; PCC 18 Bucke, 32 Powell; C142/95/38.