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

George Solley 1815 - 1899

Probate Related Papers

By Lynne Burlingham

This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

George Solley with his wife Selina, daughter Constance, sons George, Christopher and William, plus two unknowns, possibly two other sons.

George Solley with his wife Selina, daughter Constance, sons George, Christopher and William, plus two unknowns, possibly two other sons.

Reading Tony Storey’s very interesting article on the ‘Solley Farm Papers’ in Soul Search for April 2005 started to ring bells with me almost from the beginning. My suspicions were confirmed when, towards the end of the article, I read the name  ‘Emmerson & Co of Sandwich and Deal’. Only a week or so previously, I too had acquired a bundle of papers, mainly legal documents and letters, which originated from Emmerson & Co of Sandwich, but in my case via eBay of all things! As Tony says, amazingly these papers have survived for over a century and now provide an interesting insight into the lives of our ancestors.


The last place I would have thought of looking for family papers was eBay; that is until a friend alerted me to the fact that there were some Solley papers for sale there. I wasted no time in checking it out and to my utter amazement not only did I find some Solley papers for sale, but Solley papers related to my own family! The first thing I saw was the name of my great-great-grandfather George Solley followed by the names of his second wife Selina Solley and their daughter Constance, which appeared on the top document of the accompanying photograph. The papers related to his Will and Probate. There was no question but that I had to have those papers and I wasted no time in putting in my offer. That was on the Tuesday morning and the auction was not due to close until Friday teatime. A nail-biting few days followed with frequent checks to see what was happening. However, my bid remained the highest until, horror of horrors, when I checked on Friday morning, I discovered that the price had started going up. I upped my offer and was then on tenterhooks for the rest of the day. I’m delighted to say that in the end my bid was successful and in the end I got the documents for just £7.00 including postage. The suspense of the auction was now replaced by the suspense of waiting for the post to arrive! However, I can report that the wait and the suspense of the whole experience were all worthwhile and the documents are worth every penny paid for them and more. They have now found a home with one of George’s direct descendants (who will take very good care of them!) and they have provided some very useful new information on the family.


The bundle of documents, which date from 1899 to 1903, includes various solicitors’ letters, legal documents including the application for Probate and accounts all relating to the winding up of the estate of my great-great-grandfather George Solley. I already had a copy of his Will, so the papers help complete the picture. One of the documents is a handwritten letter by his widow Selina Solley. There is a list of his offspring, their spouses in some cases, and their occupations.


George died on 16 March 1899 at Fisher Street, Sandwich, Kent. Prior to the family’s  move to Sandwich some time between the time of the 1891 Census and George’s death in 1899, the family lived at Castle Farm, Richborough, where at least two generations of the Solley family had farmed for many years. According to the accounts in the bundle, George required the services of a nurse during his last illness - a Miss Ayliffe of Dover, whose fee was £1.5s.0d; Dr. Harrisson’s fees were £7.10s.6d. Given that £1 in 1899 would be about £46 today, that is the equivalent of about £375 (if my maths hasn’t let me down!). The funeral itself cost £16. 4s. 0d and the undertaker was W.C. Simmons of Sandwich. Other funeral expenses include 9s 3d for ‘Advertising the Estate’ payable to T.J. Pain & Sons of Sandwich, and two drapers’ bills for drapery (for mourning outfits??), one to E. Harden of Ash-next-Sandwich for £15. 9s. 0d, and the other to Stepney & Solley of Woking for £12. 2s. 4d. Other payments include £2. 1s. 0d to J.T.Rogers on 5 February 1900 for ‘inscription etc to grave stone’ and, on 9 February 1900, £6. 6s. 0d to Petley & Co. for ‘valuation for probate’.


The reference to Stepney & Solley is interesting. It would seem that George’s son Sidney Solley must, for a time in the 1890s, have run a drapery business in Woking with one Harry Stepney. On one of the documents dated 6 April 1900 Sidney’s address is given as 3 Queen’s Parade, Woking, Surrey; Harry Stepney has signed the document as a witness, also giving his address as 3 Queen’s Parade, Woking, Surrey. However, by the time of the 1901 Census, Sidney is living with his step-mother Selina, half brother George Christopher and half sister Constance at the Bungalow, Stone Cross, Sandwich. He is now apparently ‘Retired’, although only 39 years of age. Harry Stepney is living in Warfield, Berkshire and working as a Draper’s Assistant.


George apparently owned various land and property in the Sandwich area. On a scrap of paper the following are listed: ‘Cottage and Garden at Westmarsh let to Holness on a yearly tenancy of £9; Fruit Plantation let to Geo. Court on Lease of which 9 years are unexpired, £9; and Marshland let to Geo. Court on a yearly tenancy at £1 per acre. There is also a note estimating the value of whole property at £250. In the list of payments made on behalf of the Executors of the late George Solley, the following appear:‘March 26 1902 Paid Banks for repairs to cottage at Westmarsh £14. 10s. 0d’ and  ‘March 2 1903 White for thatching cottage at Westmarch £1. 0s. 9d. Among receipts on March 26 1902 is ‘Received of Mr. Wilks on mortgage of house in Middle Street Deal, £70. 0s. 0d.


There is still a lot to digest in the documents and more to be revealed. The legal documents in particular are hard going! I have scanned, digitally photographed and, in some cases, also transcribed the documents. These together with a copy of George’s Will, have been copied to a CD, which I am depositing with the Sole Society for their Solley archives.

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