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

The Sewells of the Isle of Wight

by Eric L Sewell

This article was originally published in the July 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

Anyone looking through bibliographies in search of Sewell pedigrees may well have come across a reference to a privately circulated work with the above title by Montague Charles Owen printed about 1906 by the Manchester Courier Ltd. The editor of Soul Search mentioned in an earlier issue that a copy of the book exists in the Lord Louis Library, Newport, IOW, and there is also a copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In 1899, M.C. Owen had already published an article in the Genealogical Magazine (Vol. II, 1899) about the family.

The family tree shown here* extends only to the end of the 19th century. It is partly derived from the one published by M.C. Owen in his book, and partly from information given in the Genealogical Magazine article. Some detail has been omitted.

As one can see, the family claims to have its roots in Cumberland, but Lionel James in his biography of Dr William Sewell ( A Forgotten Genius: Sewell of St Columba's and Radley, Faber 1945 ) draws attention to the lack of proof for this claim. The relationship between Thomas Sewell of Bleckwell (Blackhall ?) and Thomas Sewell of Cumrew is very insecure.

Mr Owen's book is mainly concerned with the children of Thomas Sewell (1775-1842), solicitor of Newport, IOW. Three sons are listed in the Dictionary of National Biography. The eldest, Richard Clarke Sewell, was educated at Winchester and Oxford and eventually emigrated to practice law in Melbourne, Australia. William was also educated at Winchester and Oxford, where he became professor of moral philosophy; and was involved in the foundation of Radley College, becoming the first headmaster. Henry, a solicitor, was a steward of the IOW and the first premier of New Zealand (a biography exists). James Edwards Sewell became warden of New College, Oxford and served as vice-chancellor of the University. A daughter, Elizabeth Missing, was the author of a number of stories for girls.

The book also examines the origins of the Sewell surname and gives details of two other Sewell families - the Sewells of Surrey and the Sewells of Bedfordshire (the latter is the subject of a separate article in Soul Search).

*Editor's note - It has not been possible to reproduce the family tree - for details mail the Sole Society


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