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




by Angela Moorefield


 This article was originally published in the August 2008 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society



I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said that the best thing you could do if you wanted to live until you were old was to pick your grandparents wisely.


To this I would add, “If you want to trace your Great Great Grandparents, then pick your surnames wisely”.


I was tempted to call this article “The Lost Sauls”, but this proved a step too far even for me!  When I first contacted John Slaughter, his response was that neither he, nor anyone else in the Sole Society, knew of the existence of the Saul family of Ashleworth.  Some months later, after John had checked my research and suggested other avenues, I now have a chart confirmed to 1761 and potentially stretching back to 1727.  But more of that later.


Firstly, I had better explain my link with the Saul family.  My father, Tom Moorefield, was born in 1915 in Runcorn, Cheshire, the youngest son of James Moorefield and his second wife, Annie Houghton.  Dad had 8 half-brothers and sisters, and one “full” sister, Eva Alice Moorefield, born 1911.


My father was not remotely interested in family history, but fortunately for me, his sister was.  Before she died, she gave me all the names of James’s children and grandchildren, together with three earlier pieces of information:



Not much, you might say.  But it proved to be more than enough.


James & Annie Moorefield

James & Annie Moorefield


Moorfield may not sound an unusual name, but it is comparatively rare, so it proved easy to find George and Louisa Moorfield in Tewkesbury in 1851 and 1861, together with details of their nine children, born between 1837 and 1855.  But by 1871, only Louisa and one of her sons remained in Tewkesbury, and by 1881 the entire family had moved away.


Tewkesbury was a wealthy wool town but, when the wool trade collapsed in the mid nineteenth century, work dried up, and families were forced to leave the area.  The Moorfield children were scattered between Gloucester and Runcorn, and sundry points in between,


By 1881, George and Louisa Moorfield were living in Marylebone, London, in Barrow Hill Road, a small snicket of a street in the poorer area at the side of Regents Park.  The “Enquiry into Life and Labour in London 1886-1903” carried out by Charles Booth describes the area as “light blue to purple” meaning that the families living there were generally poor, with an income of 18 to 21 shillings per week. Number 20 was multi occupancy, with four families in residence, 12 people in total.  George had found employment as a Scavenger – an old word meaning Street Cleaner.


When I moved to Essex, my first boss was Pat Ridgers, who was born in the East End of London in 1915.  His descriptions of the London of his childhood used to fascinate me.  In that era, there were many horse drawn carriages, with the inevitable result of copious quantities of horse manure.  Pat said that street cleaners were employed to sweep the crossing places.  So my Great Grandfather was a shit shoveller……


By 1891, George and Louisa had moved to Upper William Street, an area even poorer than Barrow Hill Road.  Again the house was multi occupancy, four families and 12 individuals.  It is clear that the couple were living in straitened circumstances, probably because George was now 76 years old and struggling to work.  What is also clear from the paucity of information on the records is the distaste the Census taker felt at cataloguing the masses of the great unwashed.


George Moorfield died in Marylebone in 1893, but Louisa lingered until 1902, dying in Marylebone aged 85.  I have not been able to find her in the 1901 census.


On these later census records, Louisa Moorfield’s place of birth was shown as Ashleworth, Gloucestershire.  I had never heard of the place, so I typed “Ashleworth “ into the Google Search Engine, and hit the equivalent of genealogical oil.  William Good, who had been researching his own family in the area, had painstakingly typed in the Parish Records not only of Ashleworth but of several of the surrounding parishes, many of which had links to my family tree.  It was an incredible stroke of luck.


I have looked at a number of Parish Registers, and mostly they are a bone-dry record of hatches, matches and dispatches.  But the records for Ashleworth and its surrounds are full of the kind of details that open the window on a long-forgotten world, from the 1620 baptism of Mary, a child found in the church porch at Ashleworth, to the 1644 burials of soldiers in Redmarley d’Abitot.  Even details of church collections are given.  In 1653, “a greate fire at Mallbowrough” raised 15 shillings and seven pence, but a collection in 1665 “for the re-edifying of certaine churches in Lythuania” managed only two shillings and eleven pence.


It is much more interesting to learn that one of your ancestors was “kill’d with a fall out of Mr John Browne’s cart” than to have a record of a burial date in a list of burial dates.


Ashleworth is located on the bank of the River Severn, and the role of the river in the lives and the deaths of its inhabitants is very obvious.  The words “This person drowned in Severn” appear with monotonous regularity in the records.  And in the light of events in 2007, “In the month of November (1770) was an uncommon overflowing of the Severn.  On the 18th of this month, the water was four feet seven inches in Ashleworth church”.


In 1801, Ashleworth’s population numbered 476, 421 employed in agriculture and 55 in trade.


Ashleworth Church

Ashleworth Church


Here the newly wed Josiah and Elizabeth Saul settled in 1805.  Elizabeth was the daughter of Jasper Alder, a Horse Trader, and Sarah Phillips.  Jasper Alder was sufficiently well off to make a will, in which he left “to (his) loving wife Sarah Alder (his) messuage and lands of freehold at Newpond for the term of her natural life or until she marry again”: the property, after Sarah’s death, to go to their son John Alder.  A condition of the will was that John Alder had to pay £5 to each of his three sisters when he took over the property.  All of Jasper’s other belongings were divided equally between his four children.  The will was proved in March 1805, after Sarah’s death, so Elizabeth Alder would have had a small dowry with which to start her married life.


Josiah and Elizabeth had seven children:


Both Sarahs seem to have died young, as there are no further records.  Jane Saul had an illegitimate son, Reuben Caleb Saul, in 1828, but I can find no details of either on the 1841 census.  It is possible that Jane may have married, or both may have died prior to 1841.


On the whole, the Saul family seem to have been exceptionally healthy, living long, and producing many children.  I hope I have inherited their DNA!


Martha Saul had an illegitimate daughter, Harriet Gabb Saul, born 1832.  She then married Robert Davis, a Blacksmith from Hasfield, and had a further eleven children.  Martha Davis died in 1894 in Cheltenham, where she had been living with her daughter and son in law, Edwin and Frances Wasley.  She was 85 years old.


Ann Saul married William Goodwin of Norton and had seven children, including two sets of twins.  Three out of four twins survived to adulthood – a rarity in that day and age.  Ann Goodwin died in Tewkesbury in 1889, aged 78.


And of course, Louisa Saul married George Moorfield, and had nine children, dying in London in 1902, aged 85.


Which leaves Jasper Alder Saul.


In 1841, Jasper and his mother Elizabeth are living in Eldersfield, but he is not recorded on the 1851 census, though he is clearly alive and well, as he married twice, in 1850 and 1852.  The 1850 marriage lasted only a few months until the death of his wife; the 1852 marriage in Quinton, Oldbury was to Eliza Bell.


At the time of the marriage, Eliza was employed as a Brick Moulder, probably at Sadlers Brickworks in Oldbury.  The majority of the Brick Moulders were women, who wore anklelength dresses and hessian aprons as work clothes.  It must have been hard and heavy work.


Jasper and Eliza Saul had 6 children:


Eliza Saul was also employed at Sadler's Brickworks when her illegitimate son, William Thomas Saul was born in 1878.  In 1881, she married Thomas Amos and had four more children.


Both Josiah and George Saul joined the Army.  Josiah was in the Worcestershire Regiment, and served both at home and in the East Indies.  He left the Army in 1898, when his intended residence is shown as “Back of Brat Lane, Birchfield Lane, Oldbury”.  Josiah was unmarried when he left the Army.  He died in  1907.


George Saul enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry in 1884 and, as well as service at home, went to Egypt, Malta and India.  Whilst in India he married Margaret McConnell on 5th July 1870 at the Registry Office in Madras, and their eldest son, George was born there in 1892.  From contacts I've had with two of George and Margaret's Great Grandchildren, it seems likely that Margaret McConnell was an Anglo-Indian, which could prove an interesting area of research for the future.


On their return to England, George and Margaret had at least four more children:


Of their five children, I have records to the present day of some of the descendants of Edward and Martha, but the GRO records include likely marriages for their other sons, so it is probable that there are other Saul descendants out there, who have not yet made contact with the Sole Society.


I decided to put the finishing touches on my family research by ordering a couple of certificates from the GRO, a birth certificate for William Thomas Saul, and a marriage certificate for Jasper Saul and Eliza Bell, as Jasper was the only one of the Ashleworth Sauls to marry after 1837.  When the certificates arrived, they read exactly as I would have expected, with one notable omission.


The word “deceased” after Josiah Saul's name.


The reason:  Josiah Saul was alive and living in Oddington.


The marriage between Josiah and Elizabeth Saul must not have been a happy one, and at some point between the birth of Jasper Alder Saul in 1824 and 1841, Josiah had left his wife and children, and gone to Oddington.  It looks as though he got the thin end of the wedge, as by 1851 he is shown as a Pauper, while Elizabeth seems to be living in relative comfort, visiting Job and Mary Eynon in Dymock, Gloucestershire.


Why Oddington?  Because Josiah Saul was born there, so he was returning home.


Because I hadn't been able to find a record of Josiah Saul's birth in any of the parishes near Ashleworth, I checked IGI and found a birth record for a Josiah Saul born in 1778, the son of Caleb and Ann Saul.  The dates looked about right, and Josiah is an unusual name, but now I had confirmation that the Josiah Saul of Oddington and the Josiah Saul of Ashleworth were one and the same.


The IGI British Isles records can be searched by inputting a name and a county, which is useful if you are seeking records from a particular area.  The search turned up the following information:


Caleb Saul married Ann Phipps on 19th October 1761 in Bourton on the Water.


Caleb and Ann had seven children:



This particular Saul family had the trait of using family surnames as middle names, a habit which continued into my grandfather's generation.  So it seems probable, although I can't at present find a birth record for Caleb Saul, that his parents were Richard Saul and Elizabeth Humphries, who married by licence in 1727.  Certainty will have to wait until I gain access to the parish records, but in theory this looks and feels right to me.


They say it aint over til the fat lady sings.  And whilst I can hear her in the wings, limbering up with a few scales and arpeggios, I'm by no means ready to let her come on stage.  I've come a long way, but I'm not ready to quit just yet.  Much more fun to see where this journey takes me next...........................


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