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

SAUL Co-ordinator's Report July 1996

by John Slaughter

Since penning my last report I have been pleased to welcome two new SAUL interest members to the Society.

Leslie Saul of Canada only started re­searching his family history in September and October 1995 during a visit to England, a trip which was not originally for genealogical purposes. He already had a certain amount of information which he was able to add sub­stantially to. He knew that his mother and father were related and that both families came from Norfolk but did not know the exact relationship at the time that he replied to my initial enquiry. I was able to establish from his information that his parents were second cousins once removed, Leslie’s pa­ternal side managing to get an extra generation in. I was particularly pleased to welcome Leslie to the Society as I am not now the sole (pun intended) member with Norfolk SAUL ancestry. I have collected a large amount of data on the Norfolk SAULs and it was nice to be able to put this to practical use.

I was also pleased to welcome Brenda Saul who has traced her husband's SAUL ancestry back to a marriage on 31 August 1801 of George Saul and Agnes Talbot at Tatham, Lancs., her husband's great great grandparents. Subsequent SAUL generations resided at Bentham, Ingleton and Clitheroe.

A few weeks back I was in the local library and looked in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). There were two SAUL(L)s listed but the one that particularly caught my eye was William Devonshire Saull (1784‑1855). That name seemed familiar. On returning home I consulted the charts and duly, found a William Devonshire Saul bap­tised on 21 April 1783 at Byfield, Northants the son of William and Elizabeth (nee Dev­onshire). This must be him I thought, but intriguingly, the chart suggested the possi­bility that there may have been two William Devonshire Saul(l)s. The GRO death in­dexes shows a William Devonshire Saull registered in Northampton in 1864 but we also know that there is a PCC will for a William Devonshire Saull in 1855 (obviously the one referred to in the DNB). The only other information known is that a William Devonshire Saule married Elizabeth Weedon at Chesham, Bucks on 8 December 1808.

The DNB indicated that there was an obituary in the Gentlemans Magazine. I looked this up, and it read:

“Wm. Devonshire Saull, Esq. F.S.A.

April 26. In Aldersgate Street, in his 72nd year, William Devonshire Saull Esq. a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and of the Geological and Astronomical Societies, and a member of the Societe Geologique of France.”

Mr Saull was a man of excellent heart, and a great enthusiast in his pursuits, but his knowledge was rather superficial, and his views, in regard to politics and religion as well were anything but orthodox. He communicated some observations to the Society of Antiquaries in 1841, (the year of his election as Fellow) on some British, Celtic, and Roman remains in the vicinity of Dunstable, and in the following year, on the meaning of Runic inscriptions, but no paper by him appears in the Archaelogia of the Society. A paper communicated by him to the Geological Society in 1848, entitled "An Essay on the Connexion between Astro­nomical and Geological Phenomena” was not printed by the Society, but afterwards published by himself, and is noticed in our review, Feb. 1854, p168. He also previously published in 1844 "Notitia Britanniae” or an Inquiry concerning the Localities, Habits, Condition, and progressive Civilization of the Aborigines of Great Britain, reviewed in our Magazine for April 1855, p397.

The name of Mr Saull will be chiefly re­membered in connexion with a valuable private museum formed of geological specimens chiefly collected by himself, and other miscellaneous curiosities, which he opened every Thursday to the public. Nothing would more delight this kind but crotchety philosopher than the pleasure of instructing and exhibiting his treasures to the lower classes, and for a long time he was honourably known among geologists as the working man's friend. ‑ From The Literary Gazette, with corrections.

Mr Saull's museum is thus described in Mr Timb's Curiosities of London. “The antiquities, principally excavated in the metropolis, consist of early British vases, Roman lamps and urns, amphorae, and dishes, tiles, bricks, and pavements, and fragments of Samian ware; also, a few Egyptian antiquities; and a cabinet of Greek, Roman, and early British coins. The geological depart­ment contains the collection of the late Mr Sowerby, with additions by Mr Saull together exceeding 20,000 specimens, arranged according to the probable order of the earth's structure. Every article bears a descriptive label; and the localisation of the antiquities, some of which were dug up almost on the spot, renders these relics so many medals of our metropolitan civilisation.”

We are not aware of Mr Saull's disposition of his museum, but it was understood to be his intention to bequeath it to some public institution, by which means it will be still more accessible than it was in his lifetime.”

A somewhat less than flattering obituary, but the claim of unorthodox views seems to be backed up by the DNB which mentions that in one paper he had argued against Newton's laws of gravity. The reference to "working man's friend” may give a hint to his origins but the obituary gives no indication of family connections. He sounds an interesting character and there are quite a few avenues to follow up here.

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