A Woman of Her Time
Sarah who Married Edward Sole
by Jennifer Ball
This article was originally published in the November 1999 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
Sarah Harriet Clark was born in Dover in 1844. I knew she had married my great‑grandfather Edward Sole but had difficulty in tracing the marriage certificate because the names did not cross‑check.
When I did finally apply, I was somewhat amazed to find she had not married as a spinster but was a widow. Her first marriage at the beginning of 1864 was to a sailor, John Jeffrey Marshall. The couple had a daughter, also called Sarah Harriet, who was baptised in St Mary and St Eanswyck, the parish church of Folkestone on the 2 December 1864. Almost a year later, the same church was the scene of the funeral service for John Marshall. He was 26. On the 1871 census, Sarah is shown as a laundress, living with her parents, her daughter and younger brother and sisters in North Street Folkestone.
She married Edward Sole, bachelor, mariner, aged 36 of Folkestone on the 16 April 1876. I knew from the 1881 census that Edward had been born in Woodnesborough in Kent and was in fact one of eleven children born to Rose Hannah and Edward Sole who had married in the church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin at Woodnesborough in 1823. Sarah left her daughter with her parents and moved to the East End of London when Edward obtained work in the London docks as a stevedore. Their first son, Edward John, was born in 1877, the second, William Ernest, in 1879 and a daughter Gertrude in 1883. On the 11 June 1884, Sarah, with three young children, was left a widow for the second time.
We can imagine how devastated she must have been when little Gertrude died the following year. These were not the days of the welfare stale and times must indeed have been hard. There were no rich relations to help out and Sarah must have been a brave woman for she went on to marry for a third time.
John William Stevens was a bargeman; they lived in Limehouse and there were two further daughters, Lilian Florence May in 1988 and Ethel May in 1891. Her eldest son died in 1906 but on the 31 March of the following year, 1907, we see her happily seated on the left of the front row in the photograph of William Sole's wedding to Miss Victoria Fergusson. Her daughters, Lily and May as they were always called are also seated in the front row. Two very fashion‑conscious young ladies!
Sarah Harriet died on the 5 December 1916. She was aged seventy two.
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