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

Keeping It In The Family

by Lynne Burlingham

This article was originally published in the May 2006 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.


Once upon a time in the parish of Ash-next-Sandwich in the County of Kent, there was a family called Solley, who lived at Richborough….


This story actually begins back in about 1999, when I was still fairly new to family history research and not as aware of the pitfalls (especially assumptions!) as I am now. It begins with a copy of the Will of my 3xGreat-Grandfather Thomas Solley of Richborough in Kent, who died in September 1845. In the Will he says: ‘…I do hereby declare that in case my said daughter Jane Solley shall happen to die before she shall come into actual possession of the Legacy…hereby bequeathed to her such legacy and part or share so intended and given to or in trust for her shall go and belong to her daughter Eliza now the wife of Stephen Martin…’. Eliza was the illegitimate daughter of Jane, baptised on 7 February 1819. 


The marriage to Stephen Martin seemed to tie in with an entry in Canterbury Marriage Licences*, in which an entry for 1834 reads ‘Steph MARTIN of Woodnesborough (25) bach to Eliz. SOLLEY of Ash (26) Sp, at Ash 16 Jun. Except that Eliza would not have been more than 16 at this time and therefore would also have been marrying as a minor, which would have required parental consent of which there was no mention. However, I couldn’t believe that there could have been another Stephen Martin/Eliz Solley around that time and so put the age discrepancy down to a typographical or transcription error. Or, unlikely in the extreme in a village where she would have been well-known, that perhaps someone had been ‘economical with the truth’ about Eliza’s age.


The story moves on several years to early 2006. Searching the Origins web site, I found the names Eliza Solley and Stephen Martin in a list of Marriage Licence applications. Initially the date didn’t register - I just thought it would be interesting to have a copy of the actual application for my family history files and duly sent off for a copy. When it arrived I realised that the application was dated 16 April 1839, not 1834 and was between Stephen Martin of Woodnesborough in the County of Kent, Widower and Eliza Solley of the Parish of St. Martin in the Fields, Spinster aged twenty one years and upwards. Alarm bells started ringing! If this was Eliza, grand-daughter of Thomas, who had Stephen Martin married in 1834 and was it an Elizabeth rather than an Eliza?


Eliza’s mother Jane had a sister, Kezia Solley, aunt to Eliza. In January 1834 Kezia Solley had married Charles Coppock of London. They too had married by licence. The licence application says ‘Charles Coppock of the Parish of St Martin in the Fields in the County of Middlesex’; the marriage to take place either at St Martin in the Fields or the Parish Church of Ash – in fact, it took place at St. Nicholas, Ash. Subsequent records show that Kezia and Charles lived in London. Could it be that Eliza had left the family home in Kent and was either visiting or living with her aunt and uncle in London?


As this was 1839 and Civil Registration had started about two years previously, for this marriage I could obtain a copy of the actual Marriage Certificate to verify details. When it arrived in due course, it showed Eliza’s place of residence as Richborough and gave no father’s name or occupation, which tallied with her birth and the Solley family home. The witnesses to the marriage were C and K Coppock – presumably Charles and Kezia. All of which seemed to confirm that this must indeed be the marriage of Thomas Solley’s grand-daughter Eliza, mentioned in his Will.


The question now remained of just whom Stephen Martin had married by licence in 1834. As with many families, the Solley family history is made more confusing by the use of the common names over and over again, especially the practice, when a child died, of giving the same name to a subsequent child and even, sometimes, more than one child! This happened with the children of Thomas Solley and his wife Elizabeth. However, there was one daughter Elizabeth, who might fit the bill. She was born in 1807 and would therefore have been about 26 in 1834, the right age. But it was thought that she had probably died before 1812 as Thomas and Elizabeth had another daughter baptised Elizabeth in 1812. However, this might well have been the Eliza Solley of Richborough aged 4 who was buried in 1817.


I expect by now, you are as confused as I was! However, thanks to help from Sue Solley and her transcripts from Canterbury Cathedral Archives and David Cave for Ash archives, it is now sorted out – at least, I think and hope so! The marriages took place as follows:


On 19 June 1834 Stephen Martin, bachelor of Woodnesborough married Elizabeth Solley, spinster, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Solley of Richborough, by licence at St. Nicholas, Ash. The witnesses were Stephen Solley and Jane Solley, almost certainly Elizabeth’s brother and sister. Elizabeth died in 1835 and was buried at St. Nicholas, Ash on 22 May. On the 14 July 1835, in the same grave as Elizabeth, a child Emma was buried. Although there is a burial record for her at Ash, there is no record of her baptism, so I have no further information on Emma at present. One could speculate that perhaps Elizabeth died in childbirth or just after and that the baby was sickly and died a few weeks later, but there is no way of knowing for certain.


On 17 April 1839, Stephen Martin, Widower, Miller of Woodnesborough married Eliza Solley, daughter of Jane Solley and grand-daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Solley of Richborough by licence at St. Martin-in-the Fields, London. The witnesses were C and K Coppock.


Finally, it is interesting to note that Thomas’s son Stephen Solley ran the Bakers in Ash, not far from the church. The business remained in the Solley family for many years. As Stephen Martin was a Miller, it seems possible that this is how he came to know the Solley family and thus to marry first Elizabeth and then Eliza.


*Canterbury Marriage Licences, compiled by Arthur J. Willis, 3 vols (covering 1751-1780; 1781-1809; 1810-1837), Phillimore, 1967-1971.


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