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

A Norman Lineage

By Susan M Sole

This article was originally published in the March 1996 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

My husband, Denis Story Sole, is a direct descendant through twenty­four generations, of the Norman DE SOLEs who came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror.

The LeyIand Chronicles tell us that "...the fief of Soles from which this family takes its name was granted at the Conquest to the Chapter of Bayeux.” M. de Greville in his records says: “William de Sole held three knight's fees in Normandy, two of them being in the Comte de Mortaine.” The SOLEs fought with Wil­liam the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and it is recorded in the Battle Abbey Rolls and Wace's History that, “…the men of Sole were conspicuous at the Battle of Hastings, striking at close quarters, and holding their shields over their heads so as to receive the blows of the hatchets.”

After the Conquest, the family de Sole settled in Kent. They were rewarded with land immediately after the Conquest and subsequently with further titles and, becoming men of substance, they bought land at Nonning­ton, Eastry, Betshanger, and other places in Kent and were knights and lords of the Manor (recorded in Halstead's History). John de Sole, a grandson of Robertus who fought at Hastings, was granted land in Oxfordshire and Shropshire for Knights Service in the 13th century. There are frequent references to these early SOLEs, e.g. in the Great Roll of the Pipe of Kent in 1189. Willo de Sole, Robertus' son was Sheriff for the County of Kent in King John's Reign. Another Sole, John, was Mayor of Faversham and treated the King with Jack Cade's Rebellion in 1450. The family were granted arms in the 14th century to John de Sole of Betshanger.

Arms were granted again in the late 11th century to another John Sole. This time they were a pun on the name i.e. part of the description being “threefish hauriant” and mentioned in Guil­lam's Heraldry of Fish 1660. Goodbid in his Villars Cantianum published in 1659 states that "...this is one of the rnost ancient families in East Kent.” It was this last aforementioned John Sole's father, William Sole (note the “de” has now been dropped) who married AIys and settled at Stretham in the Isle of Ely where he died in 1540 and thus started the connection with East Anglia in our own particular genealogical line.

My husband's direct ancestors lived at Oakington, Cottenham, Haddenham, Witchford to name but a few places. His great‑great‑great‑grandfather John Sole is buried in the aisle of Cottenham church. William Sole FRS, the surgeon and botanist is of the same family.

There is certainly not room to write in more detail here from the records we have, but it does show how the family originated in Normandy, settled in Kent, and after some hundreds of years, some moved to East Anglia while others stayed in Kent. For in­stance John Cockin Sole was High Sheriff  for Kent in 1756.

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