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



By Roger Sutton


This article was originally published in the April 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


My most recent Solly ancestor was Elizabeth Solly who was born in 1554 at Ash near Sandwich, Kent.


She married Richard Austen on 30th May 1575 at Holy Innocents, Adisham.  She was buried at Adisham on 10th January 1629. Her sister Margaret Solly married Valentine Austen of Adisham.  Their son Robert Austen married Elizabeth Nethersole, who was the daughter of Vincent Nethersole of Womenswold, and Elizabeth Denne, who was the daughter of Vincent Denne. All these families were prominent in East Kent society 400 years ago and marriages between them were frequently the order of the day, so that family wealth could be conserved.


The Austen family lived at the Count Lodge in Adisham and many Austens are buried in the High Chancel of Holy Innocents, Adisham. It is thought that the family owned the manor of Adisham at one time. They were a Roman Catholic family who challenged the form of service performed by John Bland, the Protestant Rector of Adisham. He was burned at the stake in Canterbury on 12th July 1555, one of nearly 300 Protestant Martyrs during the reign of Bloody Mary.


Elizabeth and Margaret Solly were the daughters of Stephen Solly and Elizabeth Hougham who married in about 1547. Stephen was born in about 1520 at Ash near Sandwich. Presumably he lived at the large farm of Great Pedding, which it is thought that the Solly family acquired (probably by marriage) in the 15th century. Stephen Solly was buried at Ash on 24th November 1590. It was about this time that the Solly family acquired the manor of Overland in Ash from the Harfleet family. The Hougham family owned the manor of Weddington in Ash from the 13th century down to the reign of Charles I. The Hougham family of Weddington was descended from the family of Hougham who from the 12th century were lords of the manor of Hougham, near Dover. They appear to have been a branch of the family of Avranches.

The origins of the Solly family are altogether more difficult to establish. A useful source of information is ‘Ash-Next-Sandwich’ by James Robinson Planché, first published in 1864, while Planché (the name is of Huguenot origin) was at the College of Arms. He had a considerable reputation as an antiquary genealogist and heraldic authority. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and he helped to found the British Archaeological Association in 1843.


Great Pedding, AshPlanché said it was presumed by the Great Pedding branch that the Solly family took its name from the manor of Soles in the neighbouring parish of Nonnington. It was known that a John De Soles owned this manor in the late 13th century. Planché also noted that in 1377 a John Solly was entered in the register of the Abbey of St. Augustine as holding the manor of Linacre Court. Planché was unable to connect this John Solly with the De Soles family or to discover any intermediate male descendant between John Solly and the Solly family who were settled at Great Pedding in Ash in 1509. He considered that the absence of ‘De’ before the name of the oldest Solly identified as one of the family was not to be overlooked.


The Stephen Solly who was buried on 24th November 1590 was the son of another Stephen Solly who the Solly family believe to have married circa 1509 “the daughter of Thomas Harfleet”. But Planché was not able to identify this Thomas in the Harfleet pedigree.


The arms attributed to the Solly family of Sandwich were ‘vert a chevron per pale and gules, between three soles noiant, argent’. However, as Planché commented, no arms for the family of Solly of Kent are recorded in the Heralds’ College, neither does any pedigree of Solly appear in the Visitations of Kent. Planché was an expert in this field. In 1854 he was appointed Rouge Croix pursuivant of arms in the Heralds’ College, and in 1866 he was appointed Somerset Herald.


Planché had also studied the Parish Registers of Ash, which start in 1558. As at 1864, there were 292 Solly baptisms, 104 Solly marriages and 176 Solly burials. In the 19th century the surname Solly (like Hougham) was still found among the labouring classes and in the humbler ranks of the community of Ash. My great grandfather George William Sutton was a policeman stationed at Ash in the 1880s. 


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