Richard Heaton Solly of St Margaret's-at-Cliffe
by Hamish Robertson
This article was originally published in the November 1995 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
The following article from the Dover Express 13th December 1907 has been contributed by member Hamish Robertson who found it at the Society of Genealogists.
Richard Heaton Solly of Reach Court, St.Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, near Sandwich, Kent was born at Sandwich, 4th August 1746 the son of Richard Solly, Mayor of Sandwich in 1749 and again in 1778, and a bearer of the canopy, at the coronation of King George III. The elder Richard was a son of yet another Richard, Mayor of Sandwich in 1710, 1718, and 1728, and a bearer of the canopy of the coronations of George I and George II. This first Richard was a brother of the John Solly who, says Professor R. H. Solly, in a chapter in Ridlon, “wrote an interesting account of the Solly family in 1734 ", a manuscript then “in the possession of GE Solly of Wimborne." Richard Heaton Solly never married; in view of some of his behaviour it is hardly surprising. As the article notes, he died in 1824. Since he was born in August 1746, he was actually 77 or 78.
A century ago there resided at St. Margaret’s at Cliffe a remarkable old gentleman ‑ Richard Heaton Solly, who at that time was Lord of the Manor of St. Margaret's, owning and occupying the Manor House, which his father, Richard Solly, of Sandwich purchased from John Chitty in 1730. A narrative penned about the year 1806 says: “His father, who died at Deal ten years ago, left him nearly £2000 a year. He is about 50 years of age, and is a gentlemanly looking man when decently dressed. He was educated at Eton, is well acquainted with Latin, and can converse in French. His favourite topic of conversation is lawsuits, of which he is never tired. He says he has spent £20,000 in litigation, and will talk for hours of his suits in various courts. As Lord of the Manor of St. Margaret's he claims the wreck of the sea thrown up on the shore of his property. Some poor fishermen espied pieces of wreckage, not worth £5, about a league from the shore; they went for it, and after great danger and labour, brought it to the land. As Lord of the Manor he claimed it, but the men having taken it away, he commenced actions against every one of them. Some defended it, some ran away, and others broke his windows, destroyed his fence, and with ropes overturned the large stone and leaden images in his garden. He never speaks of politics or religion, although he frequently quotes Scriptures in his letters to his attorney, one of his quotations being, 'A certain man fell among thieves,’ etc. Some of his letters to his attorney are written in French or Latin, with quaint puns upon names, and a few quotations in Greek. Some of his letters are in verse. He has spent much money in St. Margaret's, but in no useful improvements.
“He has a very high conservatory commanding a view of the coast of France and also a telescope worth a hundred guineas. He has kept in his house for many years pianofortes, harpsichords, fiddles, bass viols, harps, flutes, drums and other musical instruments, which have been very costly, lying with dust over them, and gradually going to decay. He cannot play any of them.”
“His servants do not sleep in his house, but in the adjoining village; he has but two, a man and an old woman. The man says he will not stop all night there again for two years wages for he did so once when Mr. Solly was gone to London, when he heard strange noises and banging of doors all night. Mr. Solly keeps in the house a collection of human and other skeletons. The doors and windows are full of springs and curious inventions and if any person attempt to open one of them, most likely a skeleton of human form will start from a secret spring. It is scarcely surprising that the servants declined to sleep in the house.”
"He has a large museum of stuffed birds, beasts and reptiles, as well as a curious collection of old armour and war implements. He has a costly library, but never reads any of the books; this room is always kept locked. He also has a collection of things to perform experimental tricks in natural philosophy, also a printing house and a printer always at work the whole year round, printing his letters and the answers he receives. He also has a carpenter's shop and tools; also drugs and chemicals in abundance, all mouldering away. He carefully locks up all his rooms except three, and it is a great favour for him to show his collection to any person. He seldom rises until 2 o'clock in the day, and never goes to bed until 4 in the morning. He smokes tobacco from 8 in the evening until he retires to rest. He dresses slovenly, his hair being lied with a bit of twine without powder. He never sees company or visits any of his neighbours. If visitors call, they are never invited to sit down. He never has clean shoes or boots, or his clothes or hat brushed; he says it takes their nap off and wears them out before their time. He never has new apparel until those he wears are in rags and mended to the last tatter. To advise him in his affairs he had attorneys whose names began with each letter of the alphabet, down to w, which begins the name of his present solicitor. If his present attorney attend him to London, he never offers him a coach or refreshment, and if his attorney take any refreshments, Mr. Solly will not partake of it, but will go with him to the coffee house or tavern, stir the fire, stand before it, read all the newspapers, but pay, for nothing. When he visits his attorney, he will remain every day for four or five hours, talking and writing, using his attorney’s paper, pens and wafer. At home he writes his letters on paper as large as a newspaper and coarser if he can get it, his writing being very small and close, and frequently across the whole sheet, already written on as close as possible. He is very fond of being thought a connoisseur of antiquities, and yet with all his oddities and niggardliness he is usually jocular and cheerful. He was never married, but he has to pay for the maintenance of a child which he disowns, although a magisterial decision has declared it to be his.”
Mr. Richard Solly, father of the above, died at Deal in 1795, and his son wrote an epitaph for his tomb which the vicar and churchwardens would not allow to be placed thereon, so he put it on a monument which he caused to be erected in his own garden at St. Margaret's‑at‑Cliffe. Mr. R. H. Solly was about fifty years of age when the foregoing account was written, but he continued to reside at St. Margaret's and own the manor until the year 1824 when his age would be about seventy‑two. His solicitor, whose name is referred to as beginning with a W, is believed to have been Mr. Robert Westfield of Dover.
Solly was born at Sandwich August 4th 1746.
AN UNPLEASANT EPITAPH
Gravestone inscription behind the Boutique, Sea St., St. Margaret's‑at‑Cliffe, Kent.
This epitaph was commissioned by, Richard Heaton Solly when his father died at Deal, and is a bitter attack on his step mother, whom he accuses of swindling him out of half his father's estate. The vicar and churchwarden at Deal refused to allow the stone to be erected in the church yard and so it remained at St Margaret’s, where it was put in a corner of Solly’s garden behind the present (1907,) Sea Street cottages‑
Raptus in Anuis was R S ...
Usque ad finem much opressed (sic)
By a fly yet .............. jade
That did him kiss and……….persuade
Must not she then be very forward
For to do more seven hundred borrowed
Of English Coin thus was her fun
Of half the Estate did trick her son
The goods to share and House to possess
All Happy like the Heir will scorn
For twenty kindred then has He
They’l truly very pleased be
To him and all his family (?)
And banish unto place forlorn
This .......... beg……….d
At Sandwich August the fourth
Seventeen hundred fortv six and so forth
Lo these are they too oft by fate designed
Are born to plunder and delude Mankind
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