More on the Septvans, Solleys and
Pilgrim Guest House
by Lynne Burlingham
This article was originally published in the August 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
It came as something of a shock, when I opened my copy of the April 2002 issue of Soul Search, to come across the article 'The Septvans and Solleys….' by Bill Solley. You see, Bill Solley was my father and he died nearly six years ago now!
The article had originally been published in Bygone Kent in 1991 and, having got over my initial surprise, I was curious to know how it came to appear in Soul Search in 2002. An email to the Editor, Tim Soles, soon provided the explanation. I have to say that it is, in fact, a pleasure to see his article in print again and, hopefully, reaching a new and wider audience. I hope that, in due course, two other Solley articles he wrote for Bygone Kent, will be reprinted in Soul Search.
One thing missing from the article in Soul Search was the picture of the Pilgrims, which now accompanies this article. My husband and I had a short holiday in Kent at the end of April and visited Sandwich, where we were able to see the Pilgrims for ourselves and take a photograph for the family files.
Externally at least, it still looks very much the same as it has done for many years, although the traffic in Strand Street is much worse. Once again the building appears to be empty and there was a notice about a Planning Application of some sort attached to the building. It is to be hoped that the building is Listed and that nothing too drastic is done to it!
Amongst my father's papers, now in my possession, there is a file of detailed information on the Pilgrims, including correspondence with the people acknowledged at the end of his article, photographs, plans of the building and so on, all gathered in the course of his research for the article. Much of the information came from the late G.H. Fretten, who was writing a history of Sandwich. From information given to my father by Mr. Fretten in 1985, the Pilgrims (in Lower Strand Street, Sandwich) has had a varied history. According to him, number 39 was originally called Harfleet House and number 41 Pillory House. Early in the 20th century 39 was 'The Chantry Tea Rooms' and 41 The Alma (one of 36 public houses in Sandwich!) then, later, a bank. In 1927, the two properties were renamed the Pilgrims by Lady Pearson, when she used it as a hotel, club, restaurant and antique shop. Apparently, George Christopher Solley (1869-1941) often had his lunch there. At the outbreak of the 1939-45 War, the local branch of the British Union of Fascists used the building.
In 1985, when my father visited Sandwich, the Pilgrims was empty and he was able to obtain the keys from the then owner, Mr. C.F. Burch, to visit the property and photograph the window with the coats-of-arms. By 1990, when he was thinking of writing his article for Bygone Kent, the property was still (or again) empty and the window had sustained damage. The Solley/Septvans shield was still there, though damaged, but the Septvans shield had been replaced by plain glass. One of my own local Solley family history contacts, who was allowed in to the building about two years ago by the then occupier, found that the remaining shield had also disappeared and been replaced by plain glass. Apparently, G.H. Fretten showed the window to a stained glass expert, who was of the opinion that the leading and colours were mid-19th century.
On re-reading the article now, one thing strikes me about my father's query about 'the marriage of a Solly/Solley to the daughter of a Harfleet/Harflete', which I find difficult to understand (and it is now too late to ask him!). Although the question remains as to why, when and who put the coats-of-arms in the window of the Pilgrims, he already had the information about a Solley/Harflete marriage but seems to have forgotten about it.
The information was there in the early 19th century Solly Pedigree for Isaac Solly of Layton in Essex, then in his possession (and now in mine) and also in information given him by G.H. Fretten. Although the entries in the Pedigree start with Stephen Solly (d.1590), George Christopher Solley (1869-1941), who must also have had the Pedigree in his possession at some time, added to them. He has pencilled in an earlier entry for Stephen Solly's father, Stephen Soley the Elder (of Pedding, Ash; d.1560/61) who married 'a daughter of Harflete'. There is an additional note that this was Sexburgha, daughter of Thomas Harflete, who was born in 1486 and died in her 100th year.
The same information is mentioned in a draft of the history of Sandwich (as far as I know never published), which G.H.Fretten was writing, a copy of which he gave to my father. '… Marriage of Sexburgha, daughter of Thomas Harflete of Staple and brother of Sir Christopher Harflete the Elder of Molland, Ash, to Stephen Solly of Pedding, Ash'. Mr. Fretten also mentions that the Harfleets were a very old East Kent family; formerly the Norman family of Septvans and that, in 1574, the College of Arms gave a Grant of Arms to Christopher Septvans. This states that the first to bear the name Harfleet (Gilbert Septvans) changed it from Septvans on the plea of the citizens of Harfleur, where he was greatly loved as the King's Lieutenant under Lord Grey of Codnor, in the reign of Henry V (1413-22; Agincourt was in 1415).
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