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

The SOUL Family of Olney in Buckinghamshire

By Bob Solly

This article was originally published in the March 1997 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

The SOUL family can trace its ancestors back to 1669 continuously in business in Olney, Buckinghamshire without a break, mainly as bakers and lace dealers, and usually named John Soul. The present business operates as a garage and coach operator together with an interest in farming.

The earliest incidence of SOULE on the family tree is William Soule who was born in 1635 and married Elizabeth in 1673. The family had two sons and two daughters the eldest son named, following tradition, as William. The tree continues with Cornelius who was born in 1665 and married Mary Walter in October 1689. They had two daughters and three sons. The first daughter, born in 1698 was named Mary following tradition and married William Richardson in 1745, she married for a second time in 1754, to a Jonathan Smith. The first son was William who was christened on Christmas Day, 1691. He married Elizabeth Peach in 1718. Cornelius Soule was said to have achieved fame at last, but alas only by dying whilst attempting to climb Mount Everest (the chart shows he died in 1732).

William and Elizabeth produced three sons, Richard and John who both became involved in the lace industry and Thomas Soule who was a hemp dresser. Richard Soule married Judith Marriot in January 1760 and they produced eight children of whom seven were girls and one boy, John Soule. John Soul was born in 1775. As you can see, his surname is spelt in today's style, without an "e". He married Mary Brooks in 1801 and they had five children. He became a baker and confectioner. Shop keeping must have been in the family because two sons became butcher and grocer respectively. Our member Helen Weaver, who lives in Ontario, Canada, is a direct descendant of John Soul.

In all Cornelius Soule had three sons and two daughters, one of whom, Samuel was the direct descendant of the well known Olney family who run the local Rover garage and coach firm. He vvas married to Mary Herbert in 1727. His son, also called Samuel, had both son and then grandson named John (at this time the "e" was dropped from the surname). John Sole, the younger was born in 1802 and became a baker like his namesake. He married Hannah Peabody in 1837 and they had a girl (Eliza) and a boy John who also became a baker.

The earliest records of the Olney workhouse show that he supplied bread there. He must have worked hard all his life, but his saddest day would have been 4 January 1853.

Old records state that his barns and bake house were set on fire by an arsonist. The flames spread rapidly to William Killingworth's watch factory which, with other buildings and the whole of John Soul's back premises, were burnt to the ground. Two men, John Marsden and William Scott, were burnt to death trying to save some property. The destruction was great and a ballad was written about the fire by one Thomas Aspray. An extract follows:

We've had a proof convincing, grave,

In Olney's late disaster;

That fire although a useful slave

 Is always a bad master.


For long, long years to Mister Soul

It was a servant true;

It baked his pastry (twist and roll),

And warmed his household too.


But now the rebel blazes out,

Like dragon from the dungeon,

Nor needs the rushing water spout

Played on him by the engine.


Its face of flame glowed from the thatch

Its red teeth at the door;

It snapped the roof‑tree like a match,

And hurled it to the floor.


Then to a neighbouring dwelling fled,

And tasted human blood;

And roared, and roll'd as broad and red

As a volcanic flood.


The firmament seemed set on fire,

The stars all died away,

The river near, the hills and spire

Shone out as clear as day.


It shadow'd forth that fire of old

That half consumed the Town;

Of conflagration fierce and bold

That burns a forest down.


It filled the vale with sparks and smoke,

And sudden shrieks of women;

Then vanished in a sable cloak,

Like any other demon.


Who is the cruel wicked one

That all this misery made?

Walks he beneath the blessed sun,

Or lurks he in the shade?


Incendiary, thy darkest den,

Justice divine will light;

And reckon with the for the men,

Who perished in that night.


John Soul (born in 1839) married Lucy Robinson and they had three sons and three daughters.

One son, Fred Soul founded the present business in December 1907, a mere 90 years ago! It was described then as "combining all the branches of a tin and white smith, hot & cold water and gas fittef". However, he opened his cycle sales and repair shop in 1909 and soon advertised as a Motor & Cycle Agent plus a pram store. He must have been reasonably successful, because the local paper on 12 February 1910 described the wedding on 3 February of Fred and Gertrude Susan Paybody. This was penned in the traditional manner of the time:

A very pretty wedding was solemized in All Saints Church (Emberton) on Thursday, February 3rd, the contracting parties being Fred Soul, the youngest son of John Sole, baker and Gertrude Susan paybody, the only daughter of Mr. Robert Paybody of the Bell Inn, Emberton. The Rev. G. F. Sams, M.A., Rural Dean, was the officiating clergyman. The bride, who was given away by her father, looked charming in a dress of cream silk voile with silver trimmings. She wore a wreath of orange blossom and a veil, and carried a shower bouquet composed of azalias, tulips, chrysanthemums, hyacinths and lilies of the Valley, the gift of the bridegroom.

One would not be surprised, with this effusive description, to find that the Souls could well have an interest in floristry as well!

The article continued, that Tom Soul (Fred's brother) was best man and forty relatives and guests sat down to the wedding breakfast (including the Reverend and Mrs Sams). The happy couple left in the afternoon for London where the honeymoon was spent.

After the first world war, the business expanded and a 14‑seat Metallurgique bus was acquired. A new site was found, the derelict cottages thereon were demolished and the company still trades from the same site today.

Fred's eldest son Bob (our Sole Society member) joined the firm in 1925, soon followed by his other son Bill in 1928. The pram business was dropped and new petrol pumps were installed. Then an agency was taken for Standard cars, later superseded by Austin, British Leyland and finally Rover.

The coach business was expanded after the second world war and Bob's sons David and Andrew also joined the business.

Bob Soul owns a number of vintage cars. including a rare 1909 Vinot et Deguinand with the only Salmons & Sons (later Tickfords, the Aston Martin coachbuilder) body, which was a showpiece at the opening, in 1985, of Aston Martin's new headquarters in Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. In March 1973, thieves broke into the Soul's garage and stole the lamps from the car together with other mementoes. They were caught and turned out to be local villains. The haul was valued then at 1,000. Interestingly, the Sun newspaper cost three pence at that date. On the basis of today's cost of 28p, the haul would be valued at over 9,000!

Bob also has a 1912 Vinot, a 1930 Singer and a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith Continental in his vintage car collection.

March 1973 saw fame for Bob and Dorothy Soul's son, Andrew. As verger of Olney Parish Church, he hit the headlines kissing the winner of the year's pancake race, which Olney has held for many years. He went to Bradford University and obtained an honours degree in 1977, presented to him by Sir Harold Wilson, the then Chancellor of the University.

David Soul, the eldest son of our member Bob and Dorothy Soul, married Lavinia Compton in 1969. He took a degree at Newcastle University in Engineering and the couple emigrated to Vancouver in Canada. After four years they decided, naturally enough, that they would like to pay a visit to their families back home. it was clear that navigation then was not his strong point, because they decided to build a 30‑foot ocean‑going sloop (in their spare time), with a view to sailing to Hawaii! Both David and Lavinia had to resign from their jobs in preparation for the journey. The newspaper article at the time says "...they both took navigational classes ... but apart from this had very little experience of handling a sailing boat." They finally set off and 30 days and 2,700 miles later arrived safely in Hawaii. Bob followed the whole voyage on 70 admiralty charts that he purchased.

This sense of adventure has obviously never deserted David. More fame was gained when he won the prestigious Kings Cup Air Race on 3 September 1995. Flying a Rockwell Commander plane, his navigator around the 120 mile course over Leicester was his 13 year old son Alex. This was a notable achievement and resulted in a letter from Buckingham Palace that included "...pass on Her Majesty's congratulations and good wishes to David Soul on his splendid achievement". They have three boys: David, Matthew and Alexander.

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