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



By Jennie Saul


This article was originally published in the December 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society



My name is Jennie Saul and my family tree is part of the Norfolk line of Saulís.


I only got into genealogy in the last few years, and hadnít realised the heritage behind the Saulís of Norfolk.  My father, Peter Saul, was born in 1944 and did not know the identity of his father (often the case during the war?), so therefore was given his Motherís surname, SAUL.  His mother, Joyce Gertrude Saul, (born 7 September 1911, died March 1989) became pregnant while unmarried. In danger of ruining the prestigious Victorian Saul family reputation in Norfolk, she had therefore been under pressure to leave the family home, and disappeared to Nottingham, which is where my father met my Mum and where I was born.  Apart from some childhood holiday trips to the East Coast, Norfolk did not feature in my life.


I became passionate about my family history around 2007 and have since researched the Saulís of Norfolk, and also my maternal family tree in Nottingham too.   How addictive is this hobby!


Having received some real help from The Sole Society and also Les Saul, one of The Sole Societyís members and a distant relative of mine, I decided to visit Norfolk at Easter this year armed with realms of hastily scribbled family history notes plus my partner Tim.  The objective was to enjoy an idyllic Easter weekend at a lovely hotel in Beccles (Waveney House hotel) but also to visit three places of family history during my stay (without boring my boyfriend in the process who had major reservations about wandering around cemeteries for three days).    The trip was one which I will remember for ever.  


Hereís what I found.


All Saints Church, Great Fransham

Jennie Saul at the grave of her Grandma, Joyce Gertrude Saul, at All Saints Church in Great Fransham Joyce Gertrude Saul, my Grandma, had died in 1989, and some of our family had not been able to attend the funeral, hence Iíd never visited her grave.  I discovered from my Dad that my Grandma Joyce was buried in All Saints Church in Great Fransham, a lovely village about 28 miles east of Norwich.  


Once in the churchyard I managed to locate her grave which she shared with her Mother and Father, Charles Lepard Saul, (born 1871, died 1950) and Ella Saul (nee Crane) who died of cancer in 1921.   Charles, my great grandfather had gone on to remarry the housekeeper, Grace Rix, four years after Ellaís death.  Iíve since been trying to find out more about Grace Rix and the Rix family.  I ordered a copy of the marriage certificate of Charles and Grace dated 1924 which has helped me find out more. 


Iím not sure if other people share this belief, but Iíve always felt a strange connection with some members of my family tree and in my case, with my Great Grandfather, Charles.  Even though Iíve never met him, it felt very spiritual putting flowers on his grave.


Saulís Timber

If you use the search facility on The Sole Society website and type in Ďtimberí you will see lots of information about the Saulís business on Saw Mill Lane on the riverside in Great Yarmouth, which some of the Saul family operated for more than half a century.  My distant relative Les Saul has researched this completely on the Sole Society site, having visited in 1995.  Sharing part of the same family tree, I also wished to visit the site where the family had successfully traded for so long.


Thomas Saul, was born in Stalham, Norfolk in 1817, the son of a sawyer, William of Stalham born 1788, and grandson of John Saul of Stalham born in 1752, an agricultural labourer. Thomas' elder brother by two years, William Staff Saul, had also taken up the trade and the two brothers left Norfolk for London to hone their skills. The brothers eventually returned to Norfolk and established the timber business in 1874.


On a cold rainy Sunday in April 2009, Iím sorry to say that the area was completely shut down.  Gates were locked and the area did not look like it received much activity Ė at any point in the week.  It was difficult to envisage it as the original Victorian family business and I was disappointed at not being able to access the site.  We turned back to the car very disappointed.  A revelation occurred as we drove the car over a nearby bridge.  We parked up on the opposite side of the river and dashed to the waterís edge.  From the other side of the river we had a magnificent but drizzly view of the timber yard.  Compare my photo of 2009 and one dated courtesy of Les Saul, which is stored on the Sole Society website.  One could clearly recognise it as the same building.

The Saul Timber Yard in the late 1800'sWhat remains of the Saul Timber Yard in 2009


Great Yarmouth Old Cemetery

Knowing that I wouldnít have access to any web information during my trip plus no access to any historical contacts over the Easter weekend, Iíd tried to prepare as much as possible in advance of the trip, to ensure that our short stay in Norfolk yielded the best results.  Following the trip to the timber yard, above, we headed to Great Yarmouth Old Cemetery.  Iíd rang the Norfolk Records Office only the week before, having found some information about some of the Saul relatives buried in Great Yarmouth.   I wanted to visit the graves but knew that it may be a case of finding a needle in a haystack to find the right plots and site.   While the Norfolk Records office usually charges for searching for information, Iíd managed to telephone a very helpful lady there and given her some details.  Sheíd promptly rang me back about 15 minutes later with really comprehensive details Ė including the details of further Saul relatives buried there, their date of death, and site location.  She also promised to send me a map of the cemetery indicating the location of their graves.  This arrived two days later and was incredibly useful.  Great Yarmouth Old Cemetery is huge and walking around the long grass in the rain was wet work.  Even with the map, the Saul burial plot was not that easy to find.  There were four upright gravestones, left to right:


1. Catherine Lucy Saul, d 11 Nov 1869, aged 3 months, daughter of William R and Deborah Saul

Catita Elena Saul, b 9 July 1900, died 24 September 1900, aged two months, daughter of Thomas William and Catita A Saul,


2. Bessie Saul, died 25 November 1867, aged 2 year and 9 months, daughter of Thomas John and Amy Saul

Ethel Lepard Saul, born 24 December 1874, died 9 Nov 1884, aged 9, daughter of Thomas John and Amy


3. Arthur Lepard Saul, died 26 September 1914 aged 33


4. Alice Amy Saul, born 8 April 1863, died 24 November 1892 aged 29, daughter of Thomas John and Amy Saul

Mary Lepard Saul, born 9 May 1873, died 17 Aug 1934, aged 61, daughter of Thomas John and Amy Saul


Two horizontal and more ornate graves were at the side:


1. Thomas John Saul, born 29 Feb 1840, died 25 May 1913, aged 73, husband of Amy

Amy Saul (nee Lepard) died 7 August 1884 aged 45 years, wife of Thomas John


2. Thomas Saul, born 12 Aug 1817, died 14 March 1909 aged 87

Elizabeth Saul, born 16 March 1812, died 1 Jan 1899, wife of Thomas

One of the graves was covered in ivy.  It had probably been growing for many years. I cut a small piece off and have managed to cultivate it.  It now grows in my garden and is known as Amyís ivy, after my great great grandmother.


We drove back home that Sunday afternoon and my head was filled with memories while our car was filled with the ghosts of relatives.  All those people before me who had played a part in my presence on earth.


It was an amazing trip and I would say to anyone with a passion in genealogy; if you have an opportunity to visit some of the places in your family tree, then go.  It brings your family history alive in a way that the web and countless bits of paper will never do.   Itís an emotional journey and really connects some of the dots in your past in a very visual and meaningful way.  


Return to The Sole Society Home Page