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

Saul Research - Visiting my Roots

by Peter Saul

This article was originally published in the December 2003 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

This article is in effect a follow up to my earlier article on research using the CD-ROM in the August 2003 issue of “Soul Search”. This time, the method was by direct visit to the region in question.

First, an apology. I was indeed wrong in asserting that Witherslack was in Lancashire prior to the 1974 boundary reorganisation. I misinterpreted the maps I had available as to the exact river which formed the boundary; it was the Winster, which puts Witherslack in the old Westmorland by a few hundred yards. This was corrected by a member who kindly wrote to be with a more detailed map.

Therefore the Sauls in my line lived in Lancashire, “Lancashire-beyond-the-sands”, i.e. across Morecambe Bay from the main part of Lancashire, in Westmorland, and briefly in Cumberland, so the modern “Cumbria” covers all three.

We decided to have a caravan holiday in the southern part of the Lakes, staying at Meathop Fell caravan site. This is within sight of Morecambe Bay, and actually slightly outside the region officially called the Lake District, but it is near enough.

Our first location visit was to Witherslack itself. We passed the Derby Arms pub, once on the main road, where my great-grandfather worked at the time of the 1881 census. Witherslack is really more an area than a village, and consists of a tiny village, Town End, with various farms, scattered houses and a Church about a mile away. There is also a school, which we did not see. A recent book, bought on the camp site, covered the 20th Century in Witherslack. Two Sauls were listed there in 1905, John Saul, my Great-Great-Grandfather, and Joseph Saul, probably his cousin. There are none today, and further work showed that there were none by 1921 (Kelly’s Directory). We were not able to locate the addresses we had for them, Hatter House and Slate Hill Cottage, although Moss How(e) Farm, also owned by Joseph’s father William in the mid-1800s, still exists. Another address was Town End Cot(tage?), but this was variously described to us as ”not here”, that one, and that one, and all of them! This was by one individual. He is also in possession of the remaining copies of the now out of print “A Short History of the Manor and Parish of Witherslack to 1850”. He will not sell for 20 years (I had not asked). It was becoming clear why the Sauls left there almost entirely in the 1880’s. It seemed like a good decision!

Next venue was Kendal. The War Memorial lists R.W. Saul in WWI and W.C. Saul in WWII. Neither of these appears in any of my charts, which do include some collateral lines. I do have notes of a Daniel Saul, KIA 17.1.1917, Canadian Infantry, and Lance Corporal F. Saul, 10th Bn. Loyal North Lancashire Regt., KIA 17th February 1917, only a month apart. The latter would have been my Grandfather’s cousin, while the former was much more distantly related.

Lance Corporal Saul is buried at Loos, and is commemorated on the CWGC web site at:-

The staff in Kendal Library were very helpful indeed. Although nominally covering Westmorland archives, many of the directories cover all three counties, and some include the northern part of Lancashire around Arnside. The library has four copies of the book mentioned above, and another also from the 1930’s. They also have a number of Trade Directories and other documents going back to the 1830s which are readily accessible, and microfiche copies of the Westmorland Gazette. Since most occupations I have seen for Sauls have been Farm Labourer or similar, I did not expect to find many relevant entries, but did find some which may be so; I have yet to trace all of the names found. In a 1938 directory, there were no Sauls “Private Resident” in Westmorland at all. Other directories indicated numbers of Sauls in Cartmel, Heversham, Milnthorpe, Beetham and Arnside. Some of the latter will fit close collateral branches of my charts.

The Churchyard at Witherslack showed no Sauls at all, although there were many standing gravestones form the era in which they lived in the village. Similarly, in nearby Cartmel, where they lived in the 1700s, there were no gravestones or records in Cartmel Priory. One can guess, although I have no evidence, that they may have been Quakers. The area was a stronghold of the Quaker faith, which does not accord with gravestones, or allows small unnamed ones at most.

We decided to have one day in Lancaster; I have not been there for many years, and my wife had never been there. I was not looking for Saul connections, since I have no evidence of any Lancaster addresses. However, taking a few steps into Lancaster Priory, I wondered whether any of the earlier Sauls had made the move that far South. I looked down; I was standing on a gravestone, re-used probably in Victorian times as flooring inside the church, of George Saul, his wife and four daughters, from the late 1700’s. George Saul (d. 1790 aged 69) is listed on the CD ROM as GENT, and had at least two further daughters. The only other possibilities are a Francis Saul of Lancaster, b. 1685, who may have been his father, and George Saul, Francis’ father. These are obviously not on my direct line, and I have not been able to trace any links.

I can strongly recommend a visit to this part of the country. Grange-over-sands is delightful; almost as if time has stood still for over a hundred years. It is not at all “touristy”, although all the major Lake District attractions are readily accessible, as are the alternative Saul connections I have described here.

“Cumbria” a creation of local government changes in 1974, is comprised of the old counties of Westmorland, Cumberland, and those parts of Lancashire “beyond the sands”, i.e. across Morecambe Bay. Locally, these distinctions are still made, and in my view rightly so. My family lived at times in all of those counties, although for the most part in locations a very few miles apart.

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