VISITORS TO RICHBOROUGH CASTLE
This article was originally published in the August 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Probably from about the late 1890s certainly until the 1920s, my great-grandparents William and Charlotte Solley, who lived at Richborough, were Caretakers of the Roman fort site at Richborough known as Richborough Castle.
William died in 1921 but Charlotte continued for a few more years with the assistance of her youngest, unmarried daughter Amelia Dorothea, know as Mill. At the time my father remembers visiting them they lived in one of 3 ex-army huts on the site, another of which was used as a Museum and yet another for sorting the finds found during excavations on the site. Jessie Mothersole in her book ‘The Saxon Shore’ (John Lane, 1924, p51) says ‘…and the third is the dwelling of the caretakers, a mother and daughter who have long been associated with the Castle, and whose love of flowers is responsible for the blaze of colour in the garden’.
When he was young my father Thomas William James Solley (1914-1996), usually known then as Billy but later as Bill, loved visiting his grandparents at Richborough. He enjoyed ‘helping’ with the excavations and showing visitors around the site. These ‘guided tours’ seem to have been a great success judging by several letters from satisfied visitors which are now in my possession! On at least one occasion he seems to have been assisted in this task by his cousin Hettie Solley, daughter of Sydney Solley and his wife Jessie. Hettie was a few years older than my father.
These early visits to Richborough led to my father developing a lifelong interest in history and archaeology. A legacy of this time is a collection of interesting artefacts, which apparently he was allowed to scavenge from the spoil heaps of the excavations and which have been carefully on card, some interesting photos and the letters. Some of the letters and photos accompany this article.
The group photograph shows some visitors with my father Billy, in his 'white' hat, and his cousin Hettie, in the 'white' dress. They are shown standing outside the entrance to the underground chamber which used to lie beneath the huge masonry cross, which stands within the walls of Richborough Castle. I believe this chamber has long since been filled in and has not been accessible to visitors for many, many years.
Scroll down for photographs and letters.
Charlotte Solley with her daughter Amelia, and young ‘Billy’ Solley
Letter from Edie Baldwin
Visitors with young Billy in his 'white' hat, and his cousin Hettie, in the white dress
Young Billy Solley at the Ruins
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