By Maureen Storey
This article was published in the April 2023 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
The photos in this article were among those given to Don Steel, a founder member, in the 1990s by a lady called Elsie Cannon. Elsie had found them when sorting out the estate of her cousin Dorothy Soule Marshall.
Elsie had no connection to the Soule side of Dorothy’s family and her attempts to find a Soule family member to pass them on to failed. It wasn’t until she was in her 80s that Elsie tried again to find a Soule family member and this lead her first to Ethel Uzzell, one of the Sole Society’s early members, who in turn referred her to Don Steel. The photos and a number of family letters have been in the Sole Society’s archives ever since.
The address of the shop was given on the back of the photo as 6 Broadway, Bromley. Although it’s hard to see from the picture, it was a draper’s cum milliner’s and was the business of Sarah Matilda Soule. Sarah sold the business before she married in 1887, so the photo must date from before that.
How a young unmarried woman (she was 33 when the business was sold) came to be running a shop is unclear but her family seems to have thought that the drapery/millinery trade was a suitable occupation for their daughters: Sarah’s sister Elizabeth served a three-year apprenticeship with James Smith, William Durrant and Co, a silk mercer and draper in Westminster, and her aunt, another Sarah Soule, worked in various draperies throughout her life.
Sarah Matilda (aka Millie) was born on 13 Jan 1854 and was the third of the three children of Cornelius Soule and Mary Ann Cole, her older siblings being Elizabeth Mary Ann (b 1850) and Cornelius John (b 1852). Her mother died in 1854 and her father married Maria Matchett in 1859. Sarah’s half-siblings Charlotte Elizabeth and Arthur Matchett joined the family in 1861 and 1863 respectively.
Cornelius Soule was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1822. By the time of his marriage to Mary Ann Cole in 1849, he was working as a silk mercer and lace buyer in London, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that his daughters worked in the drapery business. His son Cornelius trained as an architect and in 1871 emigrated to Canada, where he married and had a large family, and both Charlotte and Arthur emigrated to the USA, which no doubt explains why Ethel couldn’t find members of the family to whom she could pass on the photos.
Sarah Matilda Soule married Charles James Marshall, a 45 year-old plumber and decorator, at St Mary’s, Islington, Middlesex on 7 Apr 1887. Charles was a widower and had several grown children from his first marriage who don’t seem to have figured much in his later life.
Charles and Sarah had two daughters, Elsie Mina (b 1888) and Dorothy Soule (aka Dorrie, b 1894), Elsie died aged about 2 leaving Dorrie to grow up as an only child.
From the surviving family letters it seems that between the births of her daughters Sarah suffered a serious illness and spent Some time in Hove, Sussex, recuperating and in later life she was regarded by the family as frail. Charles Marshall died in 1915 and Sarah Matilda in about 1928.
Dorothy Soule Marshall was an accomplished pianist, on one occasion winning a gold medal, and gained various musical qualifications. She also took a science degree and taught science and maths for several years. At the start of the Second World War she was evacuated with her school to the country, but couldn’t settle there and instead found herself a job in Guildford, Surrey, where she lived until her death in 1981. At some point she gained qualifications in book-keeping and typing and these were the subjects she taught at the Junior Technical College in Guildford until she retired.
The most appropriate home for these photos and letters would be with a family member, so although the Society will keep them safe (and copy them) for now, if there are any family members out there who would like them, please get in touch.
Ed: I was interested in the letters LRAM after Dorothy Soule Marshall’s name in the photo overleaf. According to Wikipedia: Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) is a professional diploma, or licentiate, formerly open to both internal students of the Royal Academy of Music and to external candidates in voice, keyboard and orchestral instruments and guitar, as well as conducting and other musical disciplines. Those awarded the diploma are entitled to use the post-nominal letters LRAM and to wear the appropriate academic dress: black bachelors’ gown with scarlet silk hood of simple shape, the cowl part-lined 3 inches and bound 1/4 inch with old gold silk, the neckband fully lined and bound 1/4 inch of old gold silk. I was also interested in how the daughter of a ‘plumber’ could at that period get a degree in science and maths and go to music school. However on the 1881 census Dorothy’s father Charles Marshall is listed as a master plumber and decorator employing what looks like six men, which might explain it.