Sauls of The Solway Plain
by John Slaughter
This article was originally published in the May 2006 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I am grateful to Peter Ostle for drawing my attention to the impressive website of the Holme St Cuthbert History Group. The website features the past and present of the Solway Plain area of Cumbria, an area where Sauls were one of the prominent families. Peter has kindly given permission for the use in this article of material from both the website and other information he has provided. The website is located at www.solway.org.uk and is worth a visit.
The Greenrow Academy was founded in 1770 by John Drape and stood Bliterlees and Silloth on the site of what is now Stanwix Holiday Village. On the death of the founder John Drape in 1795, Joseph Saul, a member of a prominent local Quaker family, succeeded him. Joseph run the school for nearly fifty years until his death in 1842. During this time it attracted pupils from all parts of the British Isles and some from overseas. It is recorded that 135 boys attended he school in 1811, they being taught a range of subjects including English, Latin and other languages as well as Drawing, Mathematics, Geography, Navigation, Scripture and Astronomy. Fees were 25 guineas per year.
Joseph is remembered by a memorial in the church at Holme Cultram that records that “he imparted to thousands the benefit of a sound education and set before them a constant example of equanimity, integrity and love of truth.”
From the Quaker records we are able to establish that Joseph and his wife Elizabeth (nee Scott) had thirteen children of which three died as infants.
One of his sons, John, succeeded him, though his period of tenure was to prove shorter as John died in 1853 at the age of 48 years.
A recent discovery has also been made that an Isaac Saul operated a woollen mill at Beckfoot in the late 1700s and which was advertised for sale in the Carlisle Journal on 30 April 1803 and 9 May 1803. The advertisement reads
“WOOLLEN FACTORY AT BECKFOOT, ABBEYHOLME.
All the machinery for carding wool, spinning woollen yarn and weaving woollen cloth; and the utensils of the factory together with a stock of wool and woollen yarn; a waterwheel 12ft in diameter by 2ft wide; two carding engines (one of two and one of three cylinders) with necessary movements for uniting them with the water wheel; mechanism for a horse power with an horizontal wheel 16ft in diameter and though now applied to the carding engine, it could be applied to brewing or to a threshing machine; one teaser; two jacks; one Jennie; one warping mill; four common woollen looms; one broad woollen loom; with flies, gear, slaies, reels, machinery, etc.
Advertised for sale by Isaac Saul of Beckfoot, the owner.”
Mr G.W. Oxley of the Cumbria Industrial History Society has commented that such woollen mills were not uncommon in the area during the 18th century. There were mills in Wigton, Caldbeck and at Willowholme, Carlisle. They were fairly small scale operations and would not employ many people. The farmers would take their fleeces to the mill. Sometimes they just paid the mill owner to spin the wool and then took the yarn to sell themselves to shops or weavers. However, judging by the list of equipment, he thinks the Beckfoot mill would have done the complete job from fleece to woven cloth. He thinks there must have been a substantial dam and mill pond. This would fill up during the night and would then provide an adequate supply of water for the working day.
The most likely candidate for mill owner is an Isaac Saul born at Beckfoot on 21 March 1763 the son of John Saul and Mary Wilkinson. In his father’s will Isaac was left the dwelling house at Beckfoot and the household goods. He married Martha Barnes on 5 February 1787 but we have found no evidence that they had issue. Isaac died at Beckfoot on 4 August 1811 at the age of 48 years.
If our identifications of Isaac and Joseph, the schoolmaster, are correct they were first cousins.
Return to The Sole Society Home Page