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



A New life in New Zealand

Part 1


from Bev Trotter


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



Note by Bob Sheldon:  This is an abridged version of a simple but detailed family history written after extensive questioning of her relatives, research of New Zealand records and research help in England.  


Thomas & Lucy Soal with JesseThomas Soal was the youngest son of George Soal and Elizabeth nee Pett; he was born on the 2nd of February 1828 at Buriton, Hampshire, England.  He was one of ten children consisting of five boys and five girls.  His wife Lucy nee Glasspool was the eldest daughter of James and Mary Glasspool; she was born on the 12 January 1828 at Longwood Dean, Hampshire, England and was one of five children, three boys and two girls.


The photograph shows Thomas & Lucy Soal with Jesse.


Thomas was brought up by a very religious family, one who prided itself in helping others.  At the age of 14 he received his first bible given by the subscribers to the Buriton Sunday School.  He went on to do readings at the local Church of England parishes around the area while he worked as a flour miller.  When he met Lucy at one of the church gatherings they courted and subsequently married on the 19th May 1850 at Cheriton.  This church is over 700 years old and sits in a shallow valley.


Thomas and Lucy had nine children, Sarah, William, Elizabeth Mary, Walter Thomas, George James, Frank, John Sidney, Edward Henry and Jesse Lewin . Sarah passed away aged 4, John Sidney aged 2 and Edward Henry aged 1.  Life in those days would have been difficult bringing up a large family but as everyone did it, it was accepted that some of these children would not survive.


Maybe it was the tough times around the area that made Lucy and Thomas decide to leave England, but they put everything including family behind. Thomas received his last bible, inscribed “Mr Thomas Soal. On his leaving England for New Zealand 21 September 1874 from the Rev. Henry N. Loring, (Minister of Southwick and Boarhunt Parish). In remembrance of the faithful and reverent manner in which he has performed the duties of Clerk in Boarhunt Church for upwards of eight years.”


Thomas was given a reference from the Boarhunt Mill his last place of employment in Hampshire, written on the 19 September 1874: - it states “This is to certify that Thomas Soal has been in my employ for this last five years and that I can recommend him as a honest, sober, and industrious man. Signed Walter Bailey, Boarhunt Mill Fareham Hampshire England.”


The family left Gravesend on the 25 September 1874 onboard the “Crusader” for New Zealand.  It proved to be a difficult voyage, three days out in the Bay of Biscay the ship sprung a leak causing all men on board to work all day and night to bucket water out.  It was finally all flushed out and eventually arrived in the South Island of New Zealand at Lyttelton on the 31 December 1874.


Thomas at the age of 48 started work helping with harvesting and haymaking for six months before taking up employment in his profession as flour miller.


The family lived in a sod house in Waterton and also had 20 acres of land from 1882 until Thomas took over the Waterton Store in August 1884 and continued there until his death in 1888.  The store was the hub of the community; it sold grocery lines, confectionery, material, clothing, hardware, footwear, and meat.  It was also the local post office and the community used it as the local meeting place.  Thomas also ran the Library from 1882 to 1888.  He was a stalwart of the Anglican Church of St Philip and St James for many years.


Four of his sons were inaugural members of the Loyal Waterton Lodge, with the youngest, Jesse joining later.  There are still members of the family in the Lodge today.  This was a great credit, to the old family, in their appreciation of what they could do to help others.


When Thomas died on 10 June 1888, age 60 of bronchial pneumonia, the local paper reported: “A very large number attended the funeral of Mr T Soal, Storekeeper of Waterton, on Tuesday last, thereby showing the respect in which the deceased was held.” 


Lucy passed away on the 22 January 1892, age 66 of heart disease.  Her obituary read: “The largest funeral ever seen in the Longbeach district took place on Sunday afternoon, when the remains of the late Mrs Soal were interred in the Waterton Cemetery.  The Soal family have long been resident in the district, and have always been held in the highest esteem.  Mrs Soal survived her husband about two years, and her funeral on the 24th inst. drew together friends and relatives from the Ashburton Forks, the town of Ashburton, the Longbeach homestead, and many other parts of the county, there being a procession of over seventy vehicles, a large number of persons on horseback, and some on foot.”


Their six children survived Thomas and Lucy. The family saw Waterton district grow from sub-divided portions of Longbeach Estate into many medium-sized holdings. The town-ship they saw prosper, to the down turn when machinery took over the positions they had held.


William was 22 when he arrived in Waterton.  He married on 28 June 1887 Sarah Ann O’Kane daughter of Henry and Annie nee McGuigan originally from Ireland.  This caused a huge rift in the family, because the Church was not Anglican.  William worked for Longbeach Estate, when he first arrived with his parents and he competed in ploughing matches.  Sarah was a wonderful singer and gave performances for the Catholic Literacy Society.  William purchased a property and worked for Tuckers, in the wood and coal department.  As they were unable to have children they adopted a girl Mary Francis.  She married Francis Davis and later moved to Wanganui. The descendants of this family live in the North Island.


After William passed away Sarah and Mary suffered a house fire in 1917 destroying their home. It was thought a kerosene lamp caused the blaze, the only objects saved were Mary’s beloved piano and some household items.  One of these a blue and white tea set that the old family had brought out with them. The house was rebuilt from insurance monies.  Mary went on to give recitals for concerts.  William died in Ashburton on the 21 May 1914 .  Sarah went to live with her daughter in Wanganui, who looked after her until she passed away on the 16 July 1947.  Her remains were brought back to be buried beside her husband at Ashburton.


Edward & Elizabeth Soal in later lifeElizabeth Mary was aged 17, when she came out and married Edward Lester son of Michael Lester and Charlotte nee Davidson, from Woolwich London.  They had met onboard the “Crusader” on the voyage out; he was one of the ship’s engineers. Their shipboard romance led Edward to jump ship to find Elizabeth.  He managed to escape his pursuers and found Elizabeth and they married on the 4 April 1875; they had nine children, Edward James, William Thomas, Lucy Sarah Elizabeth, Cecilia Annie Maud, George Michael, Walter David, Alice Mary, Frank Jesse, and Henry Victor.


They lived in a small two-storied house and in their front room was a piano. This was used on Sundays for Edward and Elizabeth to enjoy the children and later grand children. They would be asked to do recitals, small plays and sing.  Each child took a turn at performing. 


Elizabeth followed in her mum’s footsteps, was a true lady, very religious, had a wonderful sense of humour, loved music and had an open door policy for anyone.  Roast dinner on Sundays after church meant all the family showing up.  She took regular trips to see the family and the family would stay with them.  Keeping up with a large family was no mean task, but you would find Elizabeth still finding time to help with church affairs and helping others with washing and ironing.


Edward was an intelligent man, clever with his engineering skills, being able to build almost anything.  He yearned for the sea, still working on the wharf and taking photos of every ship arriving in port.  In his obituary it stated he had enlisted in the British Army and served in India and in Abyssinia.  At the Lyttelton Museum there is a painting of Edward and one of Walter his son.



The photograph shows Edward & Elizabeth in later life


Their children possessed their parent’s skills, some becoming engineers, ship captains, schoolteachers, church minister and even an undertaker.  One of their son’s Walter David was Mayor of Lyttelton for some years.  They have left behind a huge family.  Elizabeth passed away on the 23 May 1942 age 85 and Edward on 24 July 1932 age 85.  Both are buried at Lyttelton Cemetery high on a hill overlooking their beloved harbour.


Walter Thomas was 16 when he arrived from England.  He married on 2 April 1890 Margaretta Jane Ashton daughter of John Ashton and Margaret nee Williams from Wales and had 11 children; John Thomas, Edith Amelia, Laura May, twins Emily, Walter William; George Charles, Lucy Jane, Mildred, Albert Henry, Gwendoline Margaret and Ella.  They lost their first-born John Thomas age 5.  The Longbeach Estate employed Walter as a general farm labourer.  In July 1878 there was a ploughing match in which Walter competed and won, he also won five pounds as a prize for best work with a double furrow lever plough.  He was later employed on a threshing mill working most of the area. 


After his father died Walter took over the Waterton Store, and the Library, which he kept until 1919.  He was a hard case, who enjoyed life to the full.  On Thursday he would do deliveries around the area, ending up picking up the children from Ashton School.  He was well known for his home brew.  Once a month Walter would travel into Tinwald to pick up supplies.  For the children it was a day out.  They would set sail on the back of the horse and dray, once in town, Walter would get the supplies and the children would play.  On the way home he would make deliveries as needed.  Occasionally it might rain going home, but Walter would think of everything and the supplies and children were covered with a canvas, which would keep them dry until they reached home.    


After Walter retired to Ashburton in 1925, his family still looked after the old property at Waterton.  Edith the eldest daughter married William Thompson.  They took over the responsibility of the Library from 1919 until 1941.  Walter passed away on 15 November 1934 age 76.  Margaretta passed away on 10 August 1946 .


George James was 14 when the family arrived from England.  He, as his brothers, worked for Longbeach Estate.  He married Emily Ashton, daughter of John Ashton and Margaret nee Williams.  She was the sister of Margaretta who married Walter Thomas.  They had one child Alfred Edward.  Three years after his birth Emily lost her life aged 25 on 19 June 1895.  George never remarried, and stayed on around the Waterton district working as a labourer but owned quite a few town sections.  In 1913 George was a roadman.  The Ashton family helped bring up Alfred or Ted, as he was known.  Ted gained his Certificate of Proficiency in 1913 going to Ashburton High School.  He was employed as a Trade clerk with the Bank of Australia and served in WW1 as a rifleman with the NZ Rifle Brigade.  George passed away on 23 February 1918 age 57 and was buried beside Emily.  


(To be concluded)


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