The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Four Generations of Ipswich Sauls

By John Saul

This article was originally published in the August 2004 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


My great-great-grandmother Frances, then aged about 87, my great-grandfather Thomas aged 60, my grandfather Thomas Henry aged 33, and my father Thomas George, aged 3.This photograph, taken in 1910, shows my great-great-grandmother Frances, then aged about 87, my great-grandfather Thomas aged 60, my grandfather Thomas Henry aged 33, and my father Thomas George, aged 3.  Frances was born in 1822 or 1823 and Thomas George died in 2000, so their combined lives covered a span of about 177 years.  All except Thomas Henry were long-lived, reaching the age of 90, 86, 59 and 92 respectively.


Our Saul line originated in Lavenham, Suffolk, but some time between 1810 and 1815 my ancestors Timothy and Sarah Saul moved to Ipswich.  They had 4 children in Lavenham and 5 in Ipswich.  My direct ancestor Thomas, baptised on Christmas Eve 1826, was the youngest of the 9.


When Timothy died in 1834, he was described as a `labourer/brewer'.  His son Thomas must have continued in a similar line, because at some time during his life he became the tenant of The Swan, a public house which was, and still is, located in King Street, Ipswich, just behind the Town Hall.  Thomas married Frances Besse in 1848; he is described as a maltster on their marriage certificate.   They had one son, also Thomas, my great-grandfather, born in 1850, and a daughter Ethel.  Thomas the father died in 1880, leaving an estate valued at `less than 600', after which his widow Frances took over the tenancy of The Swan.  Thomas the son took over from his mother as tenant of the Swan some time after 1890, but initially he and his wife Kate (Bloomfield) moved to Beccles, where he was employed at the printing works of William Clowes & Sons as a `printer/compositor'. 


Their son Thomas Henry was born in Beccles in 1876 and a second son William Versey was born there in 1881.  We know from an inscription on the flyleaf of a book `British Birds in their Haunts', awarded to Thomas Henry by the SPCA for an essay on `Kindness to Animals', and still in my possession, that they were still in Beccles in 1890.   


Ethel Saul married a man called Fenn and they had a son named Thomas Saul Fenn, born 6 October 1883.  He appears in Framlingham College records as being a pupil there between 1896 and 1899.  A Mr Tom Fenn and a Mr and Mrs George Fenn are recorded as attending Thomas's funeral in 1937.


Frances died in 1913, aged 90.  Her Will was proved in April 1913; she left 5706.   She must have been a good business-woman to have amassed such a considerable sum in widowhood.


Thomas Henry Saul initially worked as a reporter.  He started with the Suffolk Chronicle, but joined the East Anglian Daily Times in October 1899.  He was a famously fast writer of shorthand, achieving over 200 words per minute.  I possess a tattered copy of a supplement (priced 1d) to the newspaper giving his extraordinarily detailed account of the re-trial of William Gardiner at Ipswich Assizes on 21st-24th January 1903 for the infamous Peasenhall murder.  (The jury again failed to agree a verdict and Gardiner was released.)


In May 1901, Thomas Henry Saul married Rachael Keeble, a 20-year old milliner, the 8th of 9 children of George and Mary Keeble of Ipswich.  They eventually had 2 sons, Thomas George, my father, born 1907, and Jack Keeble, born 1916.   William Versey Saul, Thomas Henry's younger brother, married Ada Holmes, and they had 4 children, Doris (1907), Rona (1909), Peter (1915) and Mollie (1924).  Peter Saul had only daughters, so our particular Saul line survives only through me and my son and grandson.


Thomas Saul enjoyed more than 27 years of retirement.   His obituary notice in the East Anglian Daily Times records that he had been a member of the Suffolk Yeomanry, a musician and an all-round sportsman.  He played bowls at Roundwood Bowling Club Ipswich up to the last summer of his life.


Thomas Henry left journalism in 1909 to take over the tenancy of The Swan from his father, but gave it up in 1923 and returned to the East Anglian Daily Times.  He had always been a keen sportsman, and in his early days had been a noted -mile runner in the Eastern Counties as well as a footballer he played for Ipswich Town reserves and served on the Committee for a time and also a cricketer and bowler, so it was perhaps natural that he should become the sports editor of the paper.  During his time there, he established the Saturday evening sports paper, known to this day as "The Green `Un", and continued as its editor until the day of his death while fishing on Felixstowe Pier in October 1935.  In publishing the list of mourners at his funeral, the East Anglian Daily Times noted that the large congregation represented all sections of the community, "especially Freemasonry and Sport".  He was a Freemason, initiated into The Lodge "Prince of Wales" in 1911 and becoming Grand Master in 1920.  Ipswich Central Conservative Club was well represented, as were numerous local sports clubs and associations.  Even the Chief Constable of East Suffolk was present.


My son possesses a clock presented to Thomas Henry in 1914 for services to athletics in Suffolk, and I have a silver plate vegetable dish presented to him in 1924 for similar reasons.


Thomas Henry's relatively early death at the age of 59 meant that he pre-deceased his father.  When Thomas died at the age of 86 in 1937, a few weeks after being knocked down by a car, he left an estate valued at 7902.  He had obviously decided that buy-to-let was the best way to provide for his retirement, as his estate included no less than 26 houses (valued for probate at 5905 and yielding 542 pa rent).  He seems to have borrowed part of the purchase price of some of these from F.A.Cobbold, who presumably was a member of the Cobbold brewery family who owned The Swan, but had no debts when he died in 1937.  


My father Thomas George left home and Ipswich at the age of 17 to join the National Provincial Bank in Norwich.  His career took him to Stalham, Diss, Bishop's Stortford (where he met and married my mother Ethel Mitchell), Southsea (where I was born), war service with the RAF in Suffolk, Ceylon and Singapore, then back to the Bank in Bishop's Stortford, Hertford, and finally Stevenage.  He too was a keen sportsman, playing football, cricket, hockey and bowls to a good standard, but unlike the previous 4 generations he had no interest in beer!   He died in February 2000 at the age of 92.


His brother Jack was yet another sportsman.  He attended the rugby-playing Ipswich School, but always preferred football to rugby, and after he left school he played for Ipswich Town (in their amateur days) and founded a football club for Old Ipswichians called the Old Grammarians.  He was also instrumental in founding a cricket club known as Ipswich Greyhounds.  Later he became a football referee.


After war service in the infantry, he returned to Ipswich but moved to Eastbourne in 1960 to become manager of the Saffrons Sports Club in Eastbourne.  His marriage to Joan Beverley of Ilford in August 1945 produced one daughter Jean, born 1946.  He died in 1980 at the age of 64.


We named our son Timothy long before we knew that Timothy was the name of an ancestor.  Tim has a daughter, Madeleine, and a son, Alexander.


Despite never having lived there, unless boarding at Framlingham College for 7 years qualifies as `living', I feel drawn to Suffolk and am a closet supporter of Ipswich Town!  On one notable occasion in 1980 when Town were riding high under Bobby Robson, my father, my son and I were invited by a Director who Thomas Henry's to Club to sit in the Directors Box to watch them play Manchester United.


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