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




by John Slaughter


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



In this part I am looking at the Saul(l)s in the Midlands area. They predominate in the southerly counties of Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.




Research has shown that many of the Saul trees in the above counties can be traced back to Horley in Oxfordshire. Horley is a small village but the Sauls certainly flourished there with many of the descendants spreading their wings into the neighbouring counties. The Horley registers are extant from 1538 and it is seems pretty clear that Sauls were already in residence by that time. The earliest burial found is of a Joanna in 1541 and the earliest baptism of an Ann in 1547. The first marriage also took place in 1547 between an Ann Saul and Christopher Taylor.


As would be expected the information contained in the earliest registers is limited and with the predominance of the usual common forenames it is not possible to construct just one family tree that incorporates everyone. We have seven separate family trees with Horley roots, but just two of these predominate. These two currently contain 431 and 317 individuals.


The largest Horley tree is headed by a James Saul and his wife Mary. They had eight children baptised at Horley between 1743 and 1756. James appears to have been buried at Horley in 1785 and his wife in 1790 though neither entry gives ages. Horley is near the larger town of Banbury so it is not surprising to see that there was some migration amongst Jamesís children to Banbury. In particular two of the sons, William and Peter Pratt were married at Banbury and settled there. However the latter appears to have moved on again later in life and is believed to be the Peter who heads the Olbury, Worcestershire tribe. A third son of James and Mary was Thomas, and although he remained at Horley throughout his life, two of his sons, Thomas and John, took advantage of the rapid expansion of Leamington Priors, or Leamington Spa as it is now known, and migrated there. All the later Leamington Saulsí can be traced back to these brothers.


The second largest Horley tree is headed by a John Saul and his wife Joane. They had four children baptised at Horley between 1653 and 1664. When he died in 1678 John left a Will in which he is described as John Senior. Does this indicate that he had a son John? In the Will he mentions his sons and daughters but frustratingly fails to name them. John was not one of the four known baptisms but we have assumed that the John who had children baptised at Horley between 1680 and 1713 is John Seniorís son, but this is far from certain.


One of the children of John junior was a William baptised in 1685. It is very likely that this is the William who married Mercy Daffon at Byfield, Northamptonshire in 1714 and was one of two people who founded the Byfield clan, which has regularly featured in articles in this journal. It is they that added the second ďLĒ.


Interestingly there appears to be a connection between the above Horley charts. A John Saull of Byfield was accused of the murder of Sarah Bush in 1783, by whom she was with child. He tried to abort the child by administering mercury. He appears to have escaped from justice and a reward of 4 guineas was offered for his capture. John Saull was baptised at Horley in 1754 and married a Hannah Saul at Horley in 1776. We think they had two daughters, Hannah and Mary. It seems very likely that Hannah, the mother, was the youngest child of the James and Mary mentioned above, thus linking the two charts.


The next largest Horley chart contains 44 individuals and covers some of the early residents. It is headed by Thomas Sall and Joanna Puddle who baptised their children at Horley between 1573 and 1588. The furthest it extends is to a Paly Saul who was buried at Stratton Audley in 1700. The remaining Horley charts contain only a few individuals and include some of the earliest residents.


As well as those that migrated from Horley there were other Sauls at Banbury. We have four Banbury charts though only one is of any significant size and this contains only 44 individuals. This chart is headed by a William Saul who married three times. His first wife was Elizabeth Savage and they married at Banbury in 1772. Elizabeth died in 1777 and in 1781 William marries Priscilla Brain. Priscilla dies in 1788 and later that year William marries Sarah Barrett. The only male issue from any of Williamís three marriages that survives to adulthood was also named William and we can trace his descendants at Banbury right through to the second half of the 19th century.


There are three other charts with Oxfordshire roots, at Stratton Audley, Bodicote and Wheatley. The largest of the three is that for Stratton Audley and there is a strong possibility that it connects with the Horley chart mentioned above (headed by Thomas and Joanna). The head is a Samuel Saul who by his first wife Frances had five children baptised at Stratton Audley between 1720 and 1731. The second child was named Palin, which is not only unusual, but sounds remarkably similar to Paly, mentioned above as having been buried at Stratton Audley in 1700. Perhaps Palin was named after him.


The Bodicote chart contains only 6 individuals, parents William Saul and Hannah Satchell and their four children, none of whom appear to have had issue.


The Wheatley chart contains 13 individuals, headed by William Saul and Mary Robbins who married at Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire in 1814. They had two children baptised at Wheatley one of whom, William, had seven children born at Wheatley between 1842 and 1857.




I mentioned above that one of the Oxfordshire charts includes a William Saul who was one of two people that founded the Byfield branch. The other founder was a James Saul and he heads the only chart that we have that has its roots in Northamptonshire. James married an Jane Greenwood and they had six children baptised at Byfield between 1724 and 1737. It is tempting to think that James and William are related, and whilst this may be the case, a suitable baptism entry for James, has not been found. This chart contains 174 individuals and its most noteworthy member is William Devonshire Saull, the Geologist, who has cropped up regularly in articles.




The largest tribe of Sauls in Warwickshire are to be found at Leamington but, as stated above, the founding brothers can be traced back to Oxfordshire. We do though have a few Warwickshire charts for Sauls found elsewhere in the county, whose earlier roots have not been established. The largest of these, containing 38 individuals, is based at Tredington, which according to the Phillimore Atlas of Parish Registers is a Worcestershire parish, though nowadays is situated in Warwickshire. The chart is headed by John Saul and Ann Kitchen who married at Hedon in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1799. The reason why John was in Yorkshire was that he was a private in the Warwickshire Dragoons, which was raised following an Act in 1796 to defend against a possible Napoleonic attack. John apparently met and married a local girl during this time and their first child, John was baptised at Thorne, in 1800. The Dragoons were disbanded in 1802 and by March 1802 John and Ann were in Tredington where they baptised their second child, William. They remained at Tredington for the rest of their lives and had ten children in total. We have been able to trace some of the descendants of the first born, John, through to the 1900ís. On the 1851 census return John, the patriarch, gives his place of birth as Great Wolford, Warwickshire, however no such baptism appears in the parish register.


Not far south lies the village of Burmington and here we find a resident Saul family during most of the 18th century. William and Mary head the chart and baptised six children between 1734 and 1750. One of their sons William marries an Ann Hawks in 1759 and they have five children at Burmington between 1760 and 1772. The Saul connection with the village appears to end on the death of the second William in 1818.


Other minor charts exist for Wasperton, Hampton in Arden and Brailes but they only contain a few individuals.




On the river Severn in Gloucestershire lies the village of Saul. As this is a possible source for the name it might be expected that there would be quite a number of Sauls in the county but this is not the case. In fact we have only one chart that has been given Gloucestershire roots and even here the indications are that the patriarch may have migrated from Oxfordshire. The patriarch is a Richard Saul who on his marriage to Elizabeth Humphries in 1727 is said to have been of the parish of Milton under Wychwood. They lived at Oddington, Gloucestershire and it is believed they had four children, although there are only three baptisms in the Oddington registers. The fourth child was Caleb and is named in his fatherís will. It is Calebís descendants that we have managed to trace through the 19th century. The chart contains 55 individuals.


Other counties


The only other Midlands county for which we have a chart is Derbyshire. The head of this chart is a Charles Saul who married Elizabeth Stanley at Derby in 1815. Charles was a shoemaker but must have died fairly young as on the 1841 census Elizabeth is described as a widow. They had three known children, all boys. The chart contains 23 individuals.




As will be seen from the above, most of our evidence points to Oxfordshire, and particularly the area around Horley and Banbury, as being the cradle from which most of the Midland Sauls sprang. It is quite possible that nearly all the Midland charts will link back to that area, if only we could find the connecting evidence.


We do not know when the Sauls arrived in the Horley area, only that they were there by the time that the parish registers started in the 16th century. There is no obvious source for the name in that area but they would have had a couple of centuries, from the time that surnames started to come into being, to have drifted from elsewhere. It has been speculated previously that the place of Saul in Gloucestershire may be the source and though this is entirely possible I am surprised by the absence of evidence of the name in that county.  


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