By Maureen Storey
This article was published in the December 2019 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Ed: Maureen Storey included this as part of her Sole Co-ordinator’s report. But I thought it fitted in nicely here following John Slaughter’s article.
When trying to flesh out the lives of our ancestors, an often underused resource is the newspapers. Information on how our families lived can be gleaned from descriptions of local events as well as from court reports and the ‘matches, hatches and despatches’ sections and obituaries.
For example, from The Middlesex County Times (30 Jul 1965) we learn of an accident in which two railway workers were killed when they didn’t get off the track in time and were hit by a train. Although there was nothing he could do the prevent the accident, this incident must have had a profound effect on the train driver, William Soal of Broadford, Surrey.
On a lighter note, the Herts and Cambs Reporter and Royston Crow (30 Jul 1886) contains a report of Therfield Annual Cottagers Flower Show in which William Sole won third prizes for both his spring onions and turnips and a first prize for his winter onions – obviously he was a keen gardener.
And according to the Oxford Times (13 Dec 1862) both John and Joseph Sole of Banbury gave excellent performances in a production of The Lady of Lyons by Bulwer Lytton, with the proceeds going to the Lancashire Distress Fund.
Some newspaper articles, however, leave you feeling that you’ve only been told half the story. Under the heading ‘Disgraceful Conduct at Wedding’, The Kentish Mercury (7 Aug 1869) reports on the trial of Henry Hirons, a builder from Forest Hill, for assaulting Henry Wedlock. It describes how Hirons and his accomplices arrived at the wedding of Wedlock’s daughter Emma to John Sole in two carts and a cab that had been decorated with cabbages, lettuces and other vegetables and carrots were attached to the heads of the horses ‘in a grotesque manner’. Apparently their arrival had alarmed the marriage party who sent for the police and two policeman remained at the church during the ceremony to prevent trouble. As the bridal party got into a carriage to leave the church Hirons threw a cabbage at them which hit Wedlock. In his evidence Wedlock described the cabbage as putrid. In his defence Hirons said he didn’t throw the cabbage but merely placed it on the bridegroom’s lap and that it was perfectly fresh, having only been cut that morning. The judge was unimpressed by his explanation and found him guilty fining him £5, with 2s costs. While Hirons’ actions indicate he had a grievance with either John Sole or Henry Wedlock, it seems we’ll never know what it was, with whom and what was the significance of using vegetables to decorate the carts.