An Unusual Gift

By Maureen Storey

This article was published in the December 2022 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

The engraved plate on this somewhat alarming looking walking cane with a hidden revolver and dagger reads: Presented to George Soule by the staff of the Alhambra, 14th Anniversary, Hull, Nov 17th 1893
and gives rise to a number of obvious questions: What was the Alhambra? What was George’s connection to it? Who was this George Soule and why would he want such a cane?

George Soule’s Walking Cane

It proved easy to find the answers to the first two of these questions simply by searching the newspaper index on findmypast. The Alhambra Palace Music Hall opened in 1864 in what had formerly been a chapel in Porter Street, Hull. It was described as being large and having a richly ornamented and luxuriously furnished auditorium with balconies that ran round three sides and with a capacity of 4000. It became a popular venue, with a reputation for both good shows and good refreshments. In about 1880 George Soule became its general manager. He stayed there until 1887 when he tried to start up a music hall of his own, but this enterprise failed and George was declared bankrupt in 1888. It’s not clear whether he immediately returned to the Alhambra but was certainly acting as its manager again by 1891. The last mention I have found that connects him to the theatre was in advertisements for its show in 1897. There are also records that show him as the licensee of two public houses in Hull, first in 1887 when he took over the Black Horse in Carr Lane, Hull, and then in 1899 when he was granted the licence for the Norwood Arms.
When trying to identify George I turned first to the censuses but the only George Soule in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses had no obvious connection with the music hall or public houses. His occupation was given first as groom, then labourer and finally as auctioneer’s clerk. It was when I found a detailed account of his bankruptcy hearing, which described him as George Robert Soule, who formerly work for an auctioneer, that I knew I had correctly identified him. George Robert Soule was born in Kirk Ella, YKS, in 1856 and was the second of the nine children of Robert Soule and Emma French. He married Kate Golding in 1882 in Hull and they had five daughters although only two of them survived to adulthood. George died in hull in 1905, aged just 46. His family has so far been traced back to Robert Soule, who according to the censuses was born in Hutton Cranswick, YKS, in about 1794, though we’ve yet to find a baptism for him.
So that just leaves the final question: Why would his staff think he would want to carry a concealed weapon? If anyone has an answer to this, please let me know.