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


By Peter Saul

This article was originally published in the April 2013 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


In the August 2012 issue of Soul Search John Slaughter wrote an article entitled ‘Soldiering Sauls’, based on research by Kath Saul in Australia. I immediately recognised a connection, as I had written, but not yet submitted, an article about the same Joseph Saul. I have been aware of this individual since my early days of researching the Saul family. I have on my direct family tree a Joseph Saul, the subject of another article ‘Sergeant Joseph Saul’ (Soul Search, December 2012). That Joseph Saul and the Joseph Saul of ‘Soldiering Sauls’ were two of three of that name living in the same area at the same time. These two were in fact second cousins, sharing great-grandparents. The Joseph Saul, (b. 1870), researched by Kath was the illegitimate son of a Mary Saul, (b.1853), daughter of John Saul, (b.1802), and Margaret Greenwell.  This John, (1802), had a younger sister, Mary Ann Saul, (b.1809), who also had two ‘natural’ sons, John, (b.1830), and Thomas Walker Saul, (b. 1837). The 1830 John had seven children, including Joseph, (b. 1863), in Witherslack [ref 1] . He was my great-grandfather, and the subject of the ’Sergeant Saul’ article. The distinction was quite clear, since my great-grandfather died in 1894, well before the South African War [ref 2]in which the other Joseph Saul  fought in. 


Although my father, grandfather and I were born in Lancashire, previous generations lived in Westmorland, or around Cartmel, in ‘Lancashire beyond the Sands’, that part confiscated in 1974 and placed in ‘Cumbria’.


In 2011, my wife and I decided to follow up several leads on the Saul family in that area. Part of this was a result of writing to Sauls in Great Asby, where I knew that the family was based for at least 100 years, up to the 1870s. I had several helpful letters from Patricia Birkbeck (née Saul) and we arranged to meet at her father’s house. We were delighted to meet Harry Saul and his wife; Harry is one of my a fifth cousins. Harry’s brother has an extensive family in Australia, including Kath who wrote to John Slaughter; she is Patricia Birkbeck’s aunt.


Patricia showed us the farm at Reckapot [ref 3] with the inscription ‘Daniel Saul’ above the door. Daniel was a younger brother of John Saul and Mary Ann Saul.


The farm at Reckapot with the inscription ‘Daniel Saul’ above the doorway

The farm at Reckapot with the inscription ‘Daniel Saul’ above the doorway


During our stay, which was at the excellent Caravan Club site at Tebay, we also looked into Appleby Church. There is a brass plaque to the local men who fought in the South African War. This includes all the men, as listed by John Slaughter. Only one, Thomas Leonard Atkinson, is listed as ‘died’. [Ed. Peter did send me a photo of the plaque, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to reproduce here. However the inscription is shown below:



This tablet is placed here by
Public Subscription in honour of the
following members of the
Appleby Company Second VB Border Regiment
who served in the Volunteer
Active Service Company Border Regiment
in South Africa 1900-1901

Thomas Leonard Atkinson
who died at Potchefstroom, June 18
th 1900
Thomas Henry Davey
Thomas Gibson
Thomas Holmes
Richard Home
Thomas Home
Harry Robinson
Joseph Saul
Edward Walton Slack
William Thomas Tydd
William James Wool

Retain your Loyalty Preserve your Rights


The VBs, Volunteer Brigades, were similar to today’s TA, in that they were raised only for local defence, and would have volunteered for service overseas. Then, as now, some paid the ultimate price, but not in this case Joseph Saul. Most memorial plaques are just that, i.e. in memory of the killed in action or died of wounds or disease. The one Appleby church is unusual in that it lists all volunteers.


But what of Thomas Leonard Atkinson the soldier who is recorded as having died on the plaque in Appleby Church? 


Further research showed that Potchefstroom, where Thomas Atkinson died, is in the Transvaal, and has been renamed Tlokwe in 2006, while Transvaal is now the North West Province of South Africa.

The Atkinson family were related to the Sauls by marriage. Mary Atkinson married William Saul in 1830(?). This William is on the line to current Sole Society member Eileen Wolfenden (néeSaul) and is the brother of John Saul, on the direct line to Patricia Birkbeck (néeSaul). I am descended from Mary Ann Saul, sister of the John Saul and William Saul just mentioned.


Thomas is shown in the records as T L Atkinson, No. 7262, 1 Volunteer Company, Battalion Border Regiment, not 2 Volunteer, but clearly the same individual. He is shown as a casualty having died of disease on 17th June 1900 at Pretoria. This probably means that he had been a prisoner of war, although it is not certain; Pretoria was besieged by the British and was handed over on 5th June. He was born in the April-May-June quarter of 1879, in East Ward, Kendal. In the 1881 census he is shown as living at Selside Hall, Kendale (i.e. a farm near Kendal) in the household of Thomas Airey, his grandfather. The place of birth is shown as Do. (Ditto) to the rest of the family, where the grandfather’s place of birth is illegible.  There are no other Atkinsons at the address. In 1891, he is most likely the Thomas Atkinson living at Blea Cot Farm, Witherslack, although his place of birth is given as Cartmel, and his
age 14, when it should have been 12 or 13.


The 1891 census page is interesting  since as well as showing this Thomas Atkinson, at the next farm is Robert Park, (b. 1851). He was the son of Robert Park, (b. 1814, d. 1884), in Town End Cot, Witherslack. This Robert Park’s mother was an Esther Atkinson. The Robert Park b. 1851 had a sister Esther Park, later wife of the John Saul (b. 1830) above. That’s not the only thing of interest on the census page, as two farms further on was a Joseph Saul, another one, single and 42 at that time. I haven’t located him on the family tree so far. Clearly the Sauls, Atkinsons and Parks were very closely linked. Members of the Society who attended the gathering in Preston three years’ ago will recall that the speaker was John Park, speaking on Lake District migrants to Liverpool and Lancashire. I mentioned possible links at the time, but he did not follow up.


[ref 1] John Saul, 1830, also had a daughter Jane Elizabeth Saul, b. 1871, my father’s great aunt. I was taken to see her in about 1951.

[ref 2] The term used at the time was ‘The South African War’, although Boer War was also used. It was actually the second such war.

[ref 3] There is just one link on Google. You will need a very large scale map to find it, just outside Great Asby.  


‘Soldiering Saul’ and ‘Sergeant Saul’ Family Tree

1 Joseph Saul, the subject of the article ‘Soldiering Sauls’ which appeared in August 2012 Soul Search and being researched by Kath Saul

2 Joseph Saul Peter Saul’s great-grandfather, the subject of the article ‘Sergeant Joseph Saul’ in the December issue of Soul Search.