Emma Soole's Tablecloth
By Maureen Wiesner
This article was originally published in the December 2004 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
My Granny was Susan Allen (nee Bullen) and was the daughter of Emma Bullen (nee Soole). She was born in Arrington, near Wimpole. Emma was one of Nicholas Walker Soole’s 15 children, who in turn was one of Richard Soole’s 14 children, born and raised in Ickleton.
More than 25 years ago, I decided to research our family tree. We had a teacher at school who was very interested in genealogy and I decided to do a project on our tree as part of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
My Granny lived in a neighbouring street to us in St Albans, and proved to be a source of useful information. I was amazed at her ability to remember names and dates. She knew a lot about her mother’s side of the family, the Ickleton Sooles, and seemed very proud and fond of them. In the 1950’s she sat down with my Uncle George, her cousins Anne and Alice (William Soole’s children) and between them they draw up a fairly extensive family tree. From memory they were able to fill in details for Emma’s 14 brothers and sisters and the names of 24 of their cousins, and also details about Nicholas Walker and his father Richard Soole.
In the 1970’s we took Granny to Ickleton and she was able to point out Richard Soole’s gravestone, which was quite legible then, although when I last returned two years ago it had weathered badly.
With Granny’s outline of the family, my Dad and I were able to find our ancestors records fairly easily in the Ickleton church records, which were kept by the Vicar at that time. We traced back to Richard’s father, Richard Sole, but came to an abrupt halt when we came across a section of the church records where several pages had been cut out.
Granny’s mother was Emma Temperance Bullen (nee Soole). She was born in Chrishall, Essex and was a cook by trade. My Granny always said that Emma met her husband, Benjamin Bullen, when she was working as a cook at Wimpole Hall and he was working there as a groom and gardener. My sister has a pretty tablecloth with a label with Emma’s name embroidered on it. This must be at least 115 years old as she was married in 1889. It is still in excellent condition.
Emma’s parents were Nicholas Walker and Susan Soole (nee Ellis). My Granny seemed to have memories of her own Granny, Susan Soole (she died when Granny was 6 years old). I remember her laughing at me once when I was wearing a hippy style dress, and she said what on earth would my great-grandmother, Emma and great-great grandmother, Susan have made of it. She said that, despite the dress, she’s sure they would have approved of me. I remember feeling rather relieved about this!
Granny kept in touch with several of her cousins. She was very close to Anne and Alice (William’s daughters) and visited them in Saffron Walden until they died at an advanced age. They gave my Uncle George a large willow-pattern teapot which had belonged to Aunty Esther (another of Emma’s siblings). The teapot is still known as ‘Aunt Esther’ and like the tablecloth must be over 100 years old.
She also kept in close touch with her Aunt Elizabeth (Nicholas Walker’s sister), who married Richard Shillitoe, a builder who lived in Rugby. We have some lovely old photos of Granny and my Dad and his brothers seated round a large table enjoying afternoon tea in the garden of the Shillitoe’s Rugby house.
Granny always spoke proudly of her Soole ancestors and the fact that they were carpenters and village clerks, involved with the church. Funnily enough, my Dad and his brothers are all quite talented when it comes to woodwork, despite having no formal training. I like to think that this is due to genetic predisposition!
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