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

Origins of a 19th century Saul family

from Hockley, Birmingham

By Steven Edwards

This article was originally published in the April 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

The mention by Chris El-Amir of the newspaper report of the death of James Saul at 7 Moreton Street on 4 April 1885 (Soul Search 2 (24): 15 (Dec 2004)) has spurred me on to write up some of my midland Saul ancestry. Most of the key details are on the Sole Society CD-ROM, which is quite gratifying in that I had researched them independently and come to similar conclusions, with a few remaining uncertainties as mentioned below. The James Saul referred to is code reference GQH266 on the CD.


My fascination with genealogy began in my teenage years in the 1960s, when I was able to gather a great deal of information from my grandmother, Emily Elizabeth Saul (GQH150) who was born 1 August 1886 and could remember visiting her grandparents and great aunt at 7 Moreton Street in the Hockley district (jewellery quarter) of Birmingham. She told me that two Saul brothers had married two sisters and they all lived together in the tiny terrace house in Moreton Street. She referred to her great aunt “Betsy”, a typical Victorian spinster, who received visits from her great nieces and nephews in a formal manner, sitting straight backed in her chair, a mobcap on her head. She always asked after the children’s parents, and when they asked about her own health her answer was always the same, “Fair to middling.”


With the basic leads provided by my grandmother it was a relatively simple task to piece together the origins of the Moreton Street Sauls, using BMD records, and then parish registers for the earlier period. This was all done by hard slog with manual records - no computers, and not many microfilms, in those days! This led back to the village of Horley near Banbury in Oxfordshire and corroborated another of grandmother’s tales - that many of the books in her family home (none of which had survived) had in the front the inscription,


James Saul is my name,

humble is my station,

Horley is my dwelling place,

and Christ is my salvation”.


I believe this is a not uncommon verse form of the period, although sometimes “England is my nation” is substituted for the second line.


Once the censuses started to become available, I was able to confirm and elaborate some of the information so I can now construct a reasonable family history for the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is more that can be discovered I am sure, but for the time being my attention is focused elsewhere. Moreton Street survives despite heavy redevelopment in the area, but the house at number 7 has long gone, along with the adjacent terraces. I was fortunate to visit in 1969 and take a photograph at a time when demolition appeared to be imminent.


 Moreton Street, Birmingham, taken in 1969 (No.7 is the house on the left by the lamppost)

Moreton Street, Birmingham, taken in 1969 (No.7 is the house on the left by the lamppost)


In 1861 the residents at number 7 were the three brothers, William, James and John Saul, all born in Horley, together with William’s wife Sarah (nee Docker) and their one year old son William, and James’ wife Mary (who was also Sarah’s sister). The Docker sisters were from Meriden. I speculate that William and James migrated northward towards Birmingham in search of work, and on the way met the Docker sisters. Both marriages were at Meriden in 1855, James in March and William in October. The 1871 census records only William, James, their wives and now 3 sons of William and Sarah. Brother John had married another Mary (also born in Horley), and by 1881 was a fish hawker, living in Claybrook Street with their 15 year old daughter Elizabeth. However James’ and William’s unmarried sister Elizabeth had joined the Moreton Street household from Horley, being the slightly scary “great aunt Betsy” as remembered by my grandmother. James and Mary had no children, but William and Sarah had William (1859-1896), James Thomas (my great grandfather) (1861-1923), Henry (1865-c.1930) and Mary Ann (b.1870). Of these I know that the three sons all married and had children, but I do not know about Mary Ann. This is the heart of the Birmingham jewellery quarter, and most of the next two generations entered the jewellery trade.


James Thomas Saul (1861-1923)

 son of William and Sarah Saul of 7 Moreton Street, and great grandfather of the author 


James (bap. Horley, 3 Nov 1830) was a labourer at the nearby copper mint, while William (bap. Horley, 11 Oct 1835) had worked for the Great Western Railway as a waggoner and ostler. He had been injured by a kick from a horse and was invalided out by 1881. I have not been able to locate his death, although my grandmother said he was buried in Witton Lane cemetery. His wife Sarah was a widow when she died in 1901 aged 73, at 7 Moreton Street.


Origins in Horley, Oxfordshire

In the 1851 census, James (servant age 20) and William (ag.lab. age 15), were living with their sister Mary (age 22) and father John Saul (ag.lab. age 54) in Horley, Oxfordshire. There were two other Saul households in Horley: Thomas Saul (age 47) and Sarah (50) with children John (23), Joice (19), Mary (17) and William (5); and William Saul (26) and Ann (26) with their 8 month old daughter Jane.

Horley is a delightful small village, close by Banbury but off the beaten track. The church dedicated to St Etheldreda is worth visiting in its own right, parts of it dating from the 12th century, with 15th century extensions including some fascinating wall paintings of the same period. A chance visit in 1984 revealed the following monuments in the churchyard:


To the memory of Thomas Saule who decesed March the 6 An.Dom.1671 who gave to the poore of Horley 6 dosen of bread yearly forever to be gave at yellow well on Saint Thomas day.


In memory of Alice wife of John Saull who died Dec 16 1770 age 36 years, also of Ann their daughter who died April 2 1790 aged 21 years


In memory of John Saull who died July 17 181[4] aged 72 years


I have transcripts of Saul entries from the Horley registers. The earliest is the marriage of Anne Saul and Christopher Taylor in 1547. An Anne Saul was baptised the same year. Sauls thus appear to have been well established in the area for a long time, not only in Horley but also adjacent parishes including Wroxton, Cropredy and Banbury. There were still Sauls in Horley in 1901. Are there any now, a century later?


Horley Parish was part of the Banbury Peculiar Jurisdiction of Lincoln diocese. The Index to Wills proved in the Peculiar Court of Banbury (JSW Gibson, ed., 1959, Oxfordshire Record Society Vol. 40) lists 10 Saul wills/inventories of which 6 were from Horley. I have extracted genealogical information from the latter, and included the CD code reference where I can identify it.


Arthur Salle(?), Banbury, will, inventory, 27 Nov 1592

John Saul, Horley, husbandman, inventory, accounts, 30 Apr 1622

Robert Saull, Horley, husbandman, will, inventory, 1 Apr 1639

24 Feb 1637/8, wife Avis, son Christopher, daughters Mary and Ann. GQB008

William Saull, Horley, husbandman, will, inventory, 1 Apr 1639

30 Jan 1638/9, wife Mary, sons William and Thomas, 5 daughters.

Susannah Saull, Banbury, widow, will, 19 Sep 1672

John Saul, the elder, Horley, yeoman, will, inventory, 19 Mar 1678

wife Joane, sons and daughters (not named), ‘brother’ Thomas Meakes. ?GQH001

James Saull, Horley, labourer, will, inventory, 18 Jun 1698

brothers Richard and Thomas Saull.

Thomas Saul, Horley, bond, 17 Aug 1742

Mary Saul his relict and administratrix. GQX003

William Saul, Banbury, 10 Jul 1806

Mary Saul, Banbury, widow, 15 Dec 1837


I have not pursued manorial records for Horley, but understand there is a valuation c1545 (Weld papers) in Dorset Record Office, and a court book of 1843-94 in the Oxfordshire Record Office. The latter did find some Sauls for me in the Quarter Sessions records:


Finally Andrew Fox provided me with transcripts from an account book of his ancestor John Salmon who, during the period 1769 to 1775 rented a house in Horley to John Sall, initially for £1-15s per year, rising to £2 by the end of the period.


So what can we make of all this information? As so often in genealogy there are a number of loose ends, and too many people sharing the same names. I have with reasonable confidence tracked back from the brothers James and William Saul of 7 Moreton Street to their great grandparents, Thomas Saul (GQH041) and Anne Dixon, who were married in Horley 21 Nov 1771 (2 Nov on the CD). Here however I hit a problem, and until it is resolved there seems little point pursuing further generations. There are two Thomas candidates - one baptised at Horley 18 Nov 1753 son of James Saul (GRR001) and Mary, and the other on 10 Nov 1745 son of Thomas Saul (GQH024) and Joice (nee Goode). There are also two Thomas burials of about the right ages, 15 Feb 1829 (age 75, presumably the one examined by the coroner the previous day) and 16 Feb 1831 (age 85). The Society has opted on the CD-ROM for the second of these two as the ancestor of my line, but I need further evidence before I am convinced either way. It may be unlikely Thomas was only 18 when he married, but it is not impossible. Can anyone shed any light on this?



I am grateful for information provided by my family, and by many correspondents and professional researchers over the past 35 years. Nan Clifton, Charles Evans, Andrew Fox, Jeremy Gibson, and Pauline Saul were particularly helpful in providing advice and information from archives.

Return to The Sole Society Home Page