By Ron Spiers, England – December 2002

St Mary’s Church, Ewelme, England was built after 1430 and replaced an earlier church. There are a number of monuments in the church, one is the tomb of Alice, Duchess of Suffolk probably erected when she died in 1475. She is wearing the Garter of St George on her left fore-arm; later Queen Victoria and Queen Mary took this as evidence of the correct position in which it should be worn by Ladies of the Garter. Another tomb is that of Thomas Chaucer, (1367-1434), he was the son of Geoffrey Chaucer, (1340-1400), the poet, author of The Canterbury Tales. Thomas married Matilda Burghersh and they had a daughter Alice, (1404-1475), who firstly married Thomas Montacute and secondly William de la Pole, (1396-1450), 4th Earl of Suffolk. William was in charge of Henry V1 when he was crowned King of France in Paris. William was created Duke of Suffolk in 1448. The Chaucers and the Poles therefore had family connections. Thomas Chaucer was Lord of the Manor and Patron of the Church, 1434, and there is a brass monumental inscription to him in the church. This gives the background to the historical importance of this beautiful village church with its attached school and almshouses.

In the floor of the aisle leading to the alter and directly in front of it is a monumental brass to Ralph Speir and his family. It is in Latin, see below. The family arms is on a separate brass plate. It comprises, two chevrons between 3 fleur-de-lis impaling on a chief 3 eagles, granted 1588 to Spyer of Wargrave and Scarletts, and Spyer of Huntercombe.

The Speir family are Ralph Speir ‘sexagenario’, died 1580; Thomas Speir his son, died 1591, age 29, and his wife Catherine who had sons Ralph and Thomas and one daughter, Catherine. The position of the brass indicates that the Speir’s were of some importance. Its inscription is given below.

This is where the Spier’s of Huntercombe in the parish of Nuffield and Scarletts in the parish of Wargrave, Berkshire are found. Thomas Spier who had farmed Waistcourt in the Parish of Ewelme had aquired a lease on the manor of Huntercombe in about 1535 from the Abbey of Dorchester and he bought it in 1545. He married Margaret Pettit, daughter of Richard Pettit of Scarletts, Berkshire. He died in 1572 aged 92; so he was born in 1480. In his Will he asked that he be buried in the church at Ewelme. His father, also a Thomas died in 1526, so he would have been born about 1455 at a guess. He married three times, to Agnes, Julian and Margaret and is buried at Ewelme. He had a daughter, Agnes who married Thomas Mercer, and a son Ralph.

The family tree, compiled by a fellow researcher, is very large with the Speir family spreading out to surrounding villages and towns by the 1800’s, to Brightwell Baldwin, Marsh Gibbon, Aylesbury, Drayton St Leonard, Thornborough, Ludgershall and Shenley. The name is firstly Speir then Spier but, depending on which document one looks at, it varies as Spyer, Spire and much later Spiers.

The earliest Spiers entries in the IGI, taken from Oxfordshire Parish Records are the marriage of Johane Spire in 1549 at Brightwell Baldwin and for Berkshire Parish Records the marriage of Radolphe Spire in 1549 at Cholsey. It is almost impossible to build a family tree using only the IGI because many churches have not been recorded and most deaths are not recorded, it should be treated as a guide only for later confirmation from other records. Much of this families history has been derived from Wills, Feet of Fines, Close Rolls, Patent Rolls, Visitations etc.

Male descendants first names include Thomas (the most), Richard (next), Ralph, John, Jacob, Edward.

In 1728 Richard Spier of St George the Martyr, London, late of Scarletts in the parish of Wargrave, a descendant, was buried at St Saviours Church, Southwark, London. He owned property in the area. His will is dated 15 Feb 1727/8.

The Church of St Bartholomew at Brighwell Baldwin has a Poor Relief board on the wall on which one donor to the poor in 1688 is Ralph Spyer. In the same church is a Chalice with the name Richd Spyre, church warden on it and the date July 15, 1803.

Note – Ewelme is about 10 miles south east of the City of Oxford.

Monumental brass inscription

Rodolpho Speiro sex agenario qvi obut 25 novembris

ano 1580 filioq eivs thomae qvi evivis exessit ii DIE

decemb anno 1591 cv anos vixerat 29 catherina

vxor eivs pqva svsceperat rodolphv thomam et

catherinam, in memoriam conivgalis fiedei mesta posvit

qvi qvaerit saxo qvinam iacvere svb isto

aspiciat natv cernat et ille patrem

fvta patrem senio natvm rapvere ivveta

speirvs vterq fvit spirat vterq deo

natvm permvltis praeiit pater optimvs annis

at pivs aeqvavit natvs honore patrem

corpora si qvaeras horv tegit illa sepvlchrvm hoc

nomina si qvaeras nvmina celsa petas

non obiere svvm qvi sic adiere sepvlchrvm

vita brevis periet viia perennis erit

A rough translation of the first part is

To Rodolpho Speir, sixty years of age, who died 25th November, 1580, and to his son Thomas who departed this life 2nd December, 1591, having lived 29 years, Catherine, wife of the former, by whom he had (three children) Rodolpho, Thomas and Catherine, has sorrowfully placed this memorial of conjugal fidelity.