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


SELINA SPOONER 1837 - 1918

from Lynne Burligham


 This article was originally published in the August 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


Selina Spooner


On the 18 November 1866, George Solley (1815-1899) married Selina Spooner at St Leonards, Streatham, London, by Licence. Selina would have been 30, over twenty years younger than George. George's first wife Mary Ann Files had died just over a year earlier on 20 July 1865. George probably still had several children living at home, the youngest of whom, Sidney, would still only have been about 5 or 6 when his father married Selina. His eldest son William married Charlotte Taylor about two months prior to his father remarrying. The other three sons Thomas, George Henry and Walter were aged about 18, 15 and 13 respectively and his two daughters Mary Elizabeth and Emily would have been about 14 and 12. Having recently watched the fascinating series 'Victorian Farm' on BBC, it is not surprising that George remarried quite quickly! No doubt all the older children would have been expected to help around the home and farm, but even with a servant or two, there was a large household to run and a family to bring up with none of todays labour saving devices - cooking, baking, preserves and pickles to be made, washing and ironing for a large family, cheese and butter-making, clothes to mend and make,  not to mention any outdoor activities like vegetable and herb growing, poultry keeping - the list goes on.


Photo taken in the studio of Wood Burville, 45 Brompton Road, London. Possibly taken to mark the marriage of George and Selina in 1866? George's nephew Wood was a Witness at the Marriage. 

Photo taken in the studio of Wood Burville, 45 Brompton Road, London. Possibly taken to mark the marriage of George and Selina in 1866? George's nephew Wood was a Witness at the Marriage.


Until recently I knew little about Selina except from details on her marriage certificate - that she was of full age at the time of her marriage to George, a spinster and that she was almost certainly illegitimate (there is no father's name or occupation given). From subsequent census returns it emerged that she was born about 1836/37 in Cleeve Prior, Worcestershire, which made her about 20 years younger than her husband George when they married in 1866. Apart from the fact that Selina and George had two children, George Christopher born in 1869 and Constance in 1875 that was about the sum total of my knowledge about Selina.


Then early in 2008, while going through her Solley photograph albums, Sue Solley came across some photos, which she thought might be of interest to me. A couple in particular with their captions caught her eye and she alerted me. One was of a Miss Dane - Chris's mother's sister Miss Fanny Dain married Edward Weever of Briers Hill Staffordshire. The other is of Mrs Solley (Chris's Mother) born 4 June 1836 died 27 September 1918. 'Chris' would have been Selina and George's son George Christopher Solley. I was intrigued as the name Dain immediately rang bells, although at first I couldn't place where I had come across it. But a quick look through my file on George's family soon found it. Some time previously, I had been following up what had become of George's various children from his first marriage to Mary Ann. His son George Henry (b1851) had proved elusive disappearing from view between the 1861 Census, when he was still living at home, and the 1871 Census. Eventually, I found his death on 18 September 1868 at Church Row, Lye, Worcestershire. According to his death certificate, present at his death was a Hannah Dain.  So what was the connection between Hannah Dain, Fanny Dain, Selina and the Solley family??  Intrigued I set out to see what I could find out.


St Andrews Cleeve Prior

St Andrews Cleeve Prior


The Parish Registers for Cleeve Prior confirm the baptism of Selina Spooner, baseborn of Sarah Spooner of Salford Priors, on 25 June 1837. Salford Priors was not all that far from Cleeve Prior on the other side of the River Avon but a footpath and bridge linked the two places. Selina next appears in the written records in the 1841 Census when, aged 4, she is living with the Willis family James and Elizabeth and their children, including a son William Willis baptised 9 September 1832, in Cleeve Prior.  Sarah Spooner, Selina's mother seems to have disappeared from the scene. There are Sarah Spooners in the 1841 Census but with no information to go on other than a name I have no idea whether any of them have any connection with Selina. Did Sarah die, did she marry or did she just abandon Selina? And how did Selina come to be living with the Willis family in Cleeve Prior? Was there any connection between Sarah and the Willis family? So many questions and so few answers! However, there does seem to be a link of sorts between the Willis family and the Dain family.


By the 1851 Census, Selina age 13 is staying with George and Mary Hill at High Street, Alcester, several miles north west of Cleeve Prior. George was born in Bruton, Somerset and his wife Mary in Aston, Warwickshire. Further research revealed that Mary's maiden name was Perks, daughter of John and Sarah Perks, baptised 18 November 1804, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire. She married George Hill on 31 August 1841 at Leamington Priors. Also in the 1851 Census, William Willis is now an Apprentice Draper living with Christopher Dain, Draper of Stourbridge Road, Lye, Worcestershire and his family. William's relationship to the Head of the Household is given as Nephew. Christopher's wife was Hannah, born Aston, Warwickshire. A visitor to the family at the time of the Census was Eliza Perks, age 26, Farmer's daughter born Ashwood Bank, Warwickshire. Again further research showed that Christopher Dain married Hannah Perks, daughter of John and Sarah Perks, baptised 13 October 1811, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire, at Saint Thomas, Dudley, Worcestershire on 29 January 1840. So Hannah Dain and Mary Hill were sisters. There was also another sister Elizabeth baptised 15 March 1807, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire, who may possibly have been the wife of James Willis with whose family Selina was living at the time of the 1841 Census. Unfortunately, I have not so far been able to corroborate such a marriage. However such a relationship would account for William Willis being a nephew of Christopher and Hannah Dain.


By 1861 William Willis has been married and widowed and has a 4 month old daughter Fanny. He is now a Grocer living at Quarry Bank, Kingswinford, Staffordshire. Also in residence as Housekeeper is his 'cousin' Selina Spooner. There is also a Visitor, George Hill age 13 born Old Swinford, Worcestershire. My initial reaction was that he might be connected to George and Mary Hill, but as far as I can tell this does not seem to be the case. In 1851 and 1871 George is living with his mother Sarah Hill. I have also found the marriage of John Hill to Sarah Woodhouse on 4 October 1841 at Old Swinford, Worcestershire and the baptism of George Hill in 20 December 1846 at Old Swinford. Sarah seems to have been born in Lye, Worcestershire and is living there in 1851, 1861 and 1871 as Head of the household. The only tenuous connection seems to be Lye itself, where the various parties may well have been acquainted.


Miss Fanny Dain 

Miss Fanny Dain


Now we come to Miss Fanny Dain, according to the photo in Sue Solley's album annotated by GCS (George Christopher Solley, Selina and George's son), my mother's 'sister', who married Edward Weever of Briers Hill, Staffordshire. Christopher Dain and his wife Hannah had at least five children. In 1851 this included Emma 10, Major 8, Sarah 6, Christopher 4 and Frances A(nn?) 2 [probably known as Fanny in the family], all born in Lye, Worcestershire. There is a marriage record on Free BMD for the marriage of a Frances Ann Dain to a George Edward Weaver in the June Quarter of 1869 in the Stourbridge District. In the 1871 Census George E Weaver, 27, Grocer and Corn Dealer, born Brierly Hill, Staffordshire and his wife Frances A Weaver, 22, born Lye, Worcestershire were living at 42 Church Street, Brierly Hill, Kingswinford with son Alfred aged one. Selina was illegitimate so Fanny Dain could not have been her natural sister, but it would seem that there was a very close relationship between Selina and the Dain, Hill and Willis families. She may not have been officially adopted but the connection was obviously close enough for her to be regarded as Fanny Dain's sister and William Willis's cousin.


The question remains as to how and why George Henry Solley, son of George Solley and his first wife Mary Ann Files came to be living (and to die) in Lye, Worcestershire in 1868, in the presence of Hannah Dain. Two possibilities spring to mind. Several of George and Mary Ann's children had later connections with the Drapery business - was George Henry the first to follow this trade. George Christopher Solley, George and Selina's son, was a Draper's Assistant in Dover in the 1891 Census; George and Mary's son Walter was a Draper's Assistant between 1871 and 1891 in various places; Thomas was a Hatter and Outfitter in Sandwich in 1871 and a Grocer and Draper in Tilmanstone in 1901; in 1881 Sidney was an Outfitter's Assistant in Canterbury and in 1899 had a Drapery Business (Stepney and Solley), in Woking, Surrey. Did George arrange for his son George Henry to be apprenticed as a Draper to Christopher Dain, when the time came for him to find employment, and is this how George met Selina? Or was it the other way round - that George met Selina in some other way first and then that it was through Selina that George Henry became an apprentice Draper to Christopher Dain (always assuming that this is what happened to him!). George Henry had been ill for several months when he died, so it seems unlikely that he was just there on a brief visit to connections of his step-mother Selina. Once again so many questions, and answers which are only speculation!


George Christopher Solley   Constance Solley

George Christopher and Constance pre 1899


George died on the 16 March 1899 at Fisher Street, Sandwich (having given up the farm at Richborough sometime between the 1891 Census and his death in Sandwich in 1899). After his death Selina seems to have lived with her children George Christopher and Constance, neither of whom ever married. Between about 1901 and at least 1903 they are living at The Bungalow, Stone Cross, Sandwich. Interestingly, the 1901 Census lists an infirmity for Selina - that she was hard of hearing. By 1911 they had moved to Kings End Farm, Richborough (across the road from Castle Farm) and this is where Selina died in 1918.



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