Richard Solly Revisited
by Lynne Burlingham
This article was originally published in the December 2003 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Some of you may remember an item I wrote entitled 'Spanning the Generations', which appeared in the March 2000 issue of Soul Search. It included a photograph of myself, taken in the late 1950s, standing below the portrait of Richard Solly, Mayor of Sandwich in the 18th Century, in Sandwich Guildhall.
Last year my husband and I visited Sandwich for the first time in many years. Besides visiting places connected with the family and meeting some newly discovered relations for the first time, I was looking forward to visiting the Guildhall again, showing my husband the portrait and perhaps having my photo taken with it again. Our tour of the Guildhall was very interesting but, much to my disappointment, there was NO sign of the portrait of Richard Solly. The Deputy Town Sergeant, Mr. Verrier, who showed us around, had no idea what had happened to it. After our return home, we heard that he had found it hanging on the wall of a staircase, which normally has no public access.
This September we returned to Kent on holiday and managed to fit in a brief visit to Sandwich. This time I was determined to at least get a look at Richard Solly's portrait, so we parked the car and headed for the Guildhall. Having explained my mission, after some delay the friendly and helpful Receptionist managed to track down one of the Caretakers, who was happy to take me through to see the portrait. It was sad to see it relegated to a little-used back staircase with card boxes piled in front of it - a Solly surely deserves better treatment! With the removal of some of the boxes, I was able to take a couple of photographs of the portrait but was not able to include myself in a photo (perhaps just as well!).
One thing does intrigue me about the portrait - perhaps someone reading this can enlighten me? The inscription at the top of the portrait reads 'Richard Solly Mayor of Sandwich A.D.1710-18-22(8?)-36-1749' (the second figure is not very clear - it looks more like a 2 but might be an 8).
My understanding is that there were two Richard Sollys, father (1674-1737) and son (1703-1789), both of whom were Mayor of Sandwich at some point. A letter to my father from Dover Reference Library in 1981 just says that the portrait is of Richard Solly, Mayor in 1718, 1728 and 1736. So where do the 1710 and 1749 dates come in? I think the portrait was painted in 1736 by an artist called L. Hubner, so was the inscription added much later, perhaps after Richard the son had held office as Mayor in 1749, after the death of his father? Which still leaves the 1710 date, which must apply to the father as the son would only have been about seven years old then!
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