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Papers on the Speke family, 1968

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 22/30

Scope and Contents

Papers and photographs compiled by Donald Simpson concerning the Speke family. The material is accompanied by 'Royal Commonwealth Society library notes', no. 154 (October 1969), which contains 'An explorer's memorials', an article concerning the collection.


  • Creation: 1968


Conditions Governing Access

From the Fonds:

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Donald Herbert Simpson was born on 25 November 1920. He was the Librarian of the Royal Commonwealth Society, 1956-1987. He died on 4 November 2002. The Speke family are associated with Dowlish Wake, a small village in Somerset. Dowlish Wake was originally two manors, granted in Norman times to the Wake family. The last of the Wakes, Isabel, married John de Keynes in the middle of the fourteenth century. The manor passed to the Speke family in the fifteenth century following the marriage of John Speke and Joan, the last of the Keynes family. The couple's son, John, married Alice Beauchamp, and through her acquired property at White Lackington and Ashill. The Speke family produced landowners, soldiers, politicians and clergymen, including three rectors of Dowlish Wake. In 1860, during the incumbency of the Revd Benjamin Speke, most of Dowlish Wake Church was demolished and rebuilt. The north-east corner was set aside to form a family chapel containing the Speke memorials, including those of Isabel de Keynes, John Speke and the chapel's original builder, Sir George Speke. Other Speke memorials are at White Lackington and Ashill, the parish which contains the family seat, Jordans. The family occupied the Manor Farm, close to Dowlish Wake Church, until moving to White Lackington early in the nineteenth century. The most famous member of the Speke family is John Hanning Speke (1827-1864) whose monument is also at Dowlish Wake. Speke served in the Indian army before joining Captain R.F. Burton on expeditions to Somaliland in 1854 and East Africa in 1856. During the second of these expeditions he claimed to have discovered the source of the Nile. He returned to East Africa in 1860 with James Augustus Grant to prove his theory that the Nile rose in the Victoria Nyanza, and travelling through Uganda and down the Nile into Egypt he established the truth of his claim. Speke was fatally wounded by the accidental discharge of his own gun while shooting at Neston Park, Wiltshire, on 15 September 1864. He was buried at Dowlish Wake.


1 folder(s) (1 folder) : paper/photograph

Language of Materials


Former / Other Reference

MSS 11c99s

Other Finding Aids

Donald H. Simpson, ed., 'The manuscript catalogue of the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society' (London, 1975), p. 48.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited on indefinite loan by D.H. Simpson, 1969.


This collection level description was created by RAS using information from Donald Simpson's R.C.S. catalogue and the article in 'Royal Commonwealth Society library notes', no. 154.


Simpson, Donald Herbert, 1920-2002, Librarian of the Royal Commonwealth Society

Finding aid date

2003-12-17 14:55:37+00:00

Includes index.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom