Soles from Kent to Ireland
With Some Smuggling Thrown In!
By Phil Lynch
This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
This article explains how I was able to piece together some of the history and background to my ancestors using readily available, and accessible, records.
SEARCHING FOR MY SOLES ANCESTORS AND THE KENT CONNECTION
When I started out researching the ‘Sole’ strand of my family tree back in 2001, I was surprised to learn from my Grandfather’s cousin, Fred Sole that my 3xGreat-Grandfather was a Charles Sole born in 1816 in Deal, Kent. The ‘Sole’ family I knew were all Irish (my great-grandmother, Maria Sole married Henry Lynch in 1895 in Drogheda, although they both lived a bit further south in Dublin), so I was keen to find out what brought Charles from Kent to Dublin. Not only that but I had moved to Kent as a small boy with my family.
I discovered, via the Internet in February 2001, the ‘Sole Society’. Through contact with Bob Sheldon, I set about seeing if my Charles Sole was on his records as being born in Deal. It was at this point that I asked the question about the name ‘Eastes’. I asked since, Eastes (or Estes, in one instance) was the middle name of my Grandfather, Great-Great-Uncle and Great-Great-Grandfather (the latter being Charles’ son, James Eastes Sole). Using the IGI had shown that Eastes was a family surname that appeared to centre mainly around Deal in Kent in the 16th to 19th centuries. Indeed Bob declared he had one Eastes Sole, with a son Charles born in 1816, but with no idea of what happened to the family. So Eastes Sole now appeared to be my 4xGreat-Grandfather and I was now able to start to piece together the story of the Sole family moving from Kent to Ireland.
Eastes Sole was born in 1784 in Deal, Kent, the son of a Boatbuilder and local Congregationalist Church Deacon, Bradley Sole and his wife Matilda Weston (whose mother was Margaret Boys, a descendent of the affluent Boys family of Fredville, Nonington, Goodnestone and Betteshanger in Kent). Eastes Sole eventually, with his first cousin, Bradley Sole, took over the boatbuilding business at some point in the early 19th century. The 2 cousins’ great-grandfather had been Stephen Bradley, a local boatbuilder and it was from him that the business had been passed down in Deal. Stephen Bradley was married to Elizabeth Eastes, thus solving exactly where ‘Eastes’ became used as a first name for my 4xGreat-Grandfather and as a middle name for several other family members.
I discovered via a book on the Deputy Keeper of Ireland’s records that Eastes Sole’s will was listed as going to probate in 1824 with him listed as a Dublin Boatbuilder. So I knew he was then in Dublin with his family, just 2 years after his youngest son, William Neame Sole had been born in Deal. But why would an apparently successful boat builder move his family and business out of Kent and across to Dublin? I guessed I would have to learn a bit about the social and economic history of Deal at that time. Luckily for me this is very well documented, both on boards in and around Deal itself as well as on various Internet websites.
BOATBUILDING AND SMUGGLING IN DEAL, KENT
Now in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, Deal was viewed by many as a den of inequity and the hub of the South-coast smuggling trade. Goods would be smuggled in on specially built boats with extra hiding places and the local Waterguards would often be bribed to turn a blind eye. This trade had certainly become a thorn in the side of the government by the late 18th century, particularly as goods were brought in on the south coast with the ships floundering on the local Goodwin Sands. Some local boatmen would steal the cargoes rather than save the lives of those on the boats! A tidy profit was to be made in such business.
To try and put a stop to all this illicit trade, in 1784, the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, ordered troops into Deal to smash up the boats to prevent smuggling. Upon arrival, the army were not made welcome by the locals and were unable to acquire accommodation since the whole town was reliant on this extra trade that the boatmen pulled in. So they found a farm outside of Deal to stay at for the night and then duly marched in and smashed up all the boats on 15th January 1784 (most boats were well up on the shore due to recent storms). Now I guess the local boat builders saw this as another opportunity and simply built more boats with business carrying on as usual, with intermittent raiding by officials and army alike for some years.
However, war with Napoleon’s France was to have an impact on Deal, their boat builders and, of course, my family. The war with France had commenced in 1792 and raged on until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815. More coastguards were posted to repel invaders from 1795 but from 1805, Martello towers were built along the coast to spot any invaders. This also helped spot the smugglers creeping in with their booty. Indeed, on one occasion, the guards had intercepted the smuggling in one go of 2,
650 bottles of gin – that must have been one heck of a party they’d been headed for!!
With the war with France over, the real squeeze on smuggling came in as Coast Blockades were introduced between Margate and Dover from 1817, having parties of naval seamen patrolling offshore, and manning the Watch Houses which were sited at intervals of three or four miles. Though the system was both expensive and unpopular, and some Blockade men succumbed to bribery, the impact on smuggling was considerable, and was to continue until the Coastguard Service took over in 1831.
Now, whether you were an honest boat builder or an opportunist builder (making boats with all the hiding places essential for smuggling), the economics were such that boatbuilding was bound to suffer if less smuggling boats were required. Then, so it was that around 1823, Eastes Sole and Bradley Sole split their business. Bradley Sole moved along the coast to Southampton and Eastes Sole moved across the Irish Sea with his wife, Mary Finnis Sole (nee Roberts), and 5 children (sons Bradley, Charles & William Neame and daughters, Sarah & Elizabeth).
I guess you could say that Deal in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had set the trend for the ‘booze-cruises’ that people undertake nowadays!
THE SOLES IN IRELAND
Eastes Sole then died after moving to Ireland, as his will went to probate in both Dublin and London in 1824 (he still had property in Deal). His wife, Mary Finnis Sole (nee Roberts) died in 1864 in Dundrum (on the outskirts of Dublin). Three of his children are yet to be accounted for but of his two elder sons, Bradley and Charles, there is much evidence.
My 3xGreat Grandfather, Charles married in 1842 to Frances Mann in Dundrum and promptly took up her father’s Grocer’s business in Dundrum village, next door to his new brother-in-law’s Post Office. He had completed his apprenticeship as a grocer in 1841 and been declared a Freeman of Dublin (just as his father Eastes had been a Freeman of Deal by virtue of his boatbuilding business). Charles and Frances had 8 children (including my 2xGreat-Grandfather, James Eastes Sole in 1851) before Frances died at a young age in 1854. Charles then produced 4 more children with his 2nd wife, Frances Jane Wallace. During his second marriage, Charles set up business as a flour merchant in the centre of Dublin. The latter house, in Westland Row, is still standing and is just 100 yards from the General Register Office of Ireland. Charles passed away in 1885 and is buried in Taney Graveyard, Dundrum.
Charles’ son, James Eastes Sole was the only son to live to adulthood and get married (another son from his second marriage, a William Wallace Sole, joined the medical corps but died aged 33 without marrying). James was my Great-Great-Grandfather and became an accountant, starting out on an apprenticeship in Cork where he met Maria Louisa Murray, whom he married in 1873. Their eldest daughter, my great-grandmother Maria Frances Sole, was born in 1875 in Cork before the family moved back to Dublin in 1877, where James joined a local accountancy firm. Maria Sole married Henry Richard Lynch in 1895 thus joining the Lynch and Sole families together.
Meanwhile, Charles’ brother, Bradley Sole had become a lighthouse-keeper for the Irish Lights Commission in 1836. Now watching out for stray boats is a lonely job and although I have yet to locate his marriage, 7 children of Bradley have turned up on various marriage and death certificates and British Censuses (from 1881 onwards). Each of his children’s births took place in a parish that had a lighthouse. Well there wasn’t any Coronation Street or Eastenders for a Mrs Sole to watch in those days, was there?
Bradley Sole himself passed away in 1883 in Donaghadee, County Down. The Commissioners of Irish Lights were able to e-mail me the date of Bradley’s admittance to the Irish Lights Service but held little else other than a note they found on him being the Principal Light Keeper at Balbriggan in 1871. However, their later records provided a full service record for Bradley’s son, John Bradly Sole who had also become a lighthouse-keeper. That at least gave me the latter’s date of birth and the record tied in with where his children were born (still no television for Mrs Sole!).
I will continue to search for Eastes Sole’s burial in Dublin since I do not know what ailed him at his premature death (he was age 40). I will also seek his remaining children (and possible marriages if they survived). However, an Elizabeth Sole does turn up in Deal again with her age and birth in Deal in the 1851 census as a Dressmaker. I have not located her death yet and so cannot confirm her as the sole Sole child returning to Deal back from Ireland.
I have now made several trips to Dublin and Belfast to research various strands of my family. 95% of the Soles I have found in 19th Century Ireland have been part of my family and there is only 1 known person living today who was born in the Republic of Ireland who has the surname Sole (he lives in Northern Ireland now). If any of the other Sole Society members would like to know how to approach researching family history in either Ireland or Northern Ireland then I would be happy to have a chat and run through how I have approached this, providing a basic outline of where to start.
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