By George Solly
This article was published in the August 2022 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Over the last 60 years that I have been researching my father’s forebears (Solly, Roberts, Nightingale and Dowsett) and my mother’s (Oberheide, Wilhelm etc.. in Germany), I have been struck by how many times the Sollys and Dennes have been linked by marriage. I decided to go through my multi-generational chart to examine examples of this.
The first (or last, depending whether you go back in time or vice versa) was Mary Denne (17.07.1791 – 15.01.1848) who married my great grandfather Richard Solly (1793-1877) who farmed in Faversham Kent but moved to Mundon, Essex to live there with William and Mary (nee Wildash) his in-laws. (Previously there had been other Solly-Denne unions by not in my direct line).
Going back to the 8th generation (great x 5 grandparents) Henry Vincent Denne of Littlebourne Court, near Canterbury, married three times, the second time to my direct forebear Elisabeth Terry (1693-1757). His marriages caused this complication:
their daughter Margaret Denne married Richard Solly, or the seventh generation from me, whilst almost 30 years later Henry Denne’s third marriage to Jane (aka Mary) Overy produced a son, William Denne who married Mary Wildash (as above), which is the sixth generation. In summary then, Henry Vincent Denne is my 5 x great grandfather on the Solly line, but my 4 x great grandfather on the Wildash line!
[Ed: this was very confusing for me, so I have clarified it with George and produced the tree opposite which shows the skipped generation to make it easier to follow.]
The Denne line has been traced back to around 1000 and they are of some interest.
Robert de Den or de Dene (1st recorded Denne ancestor) b. 1004 a pincerna (butler) or sewer, a high ranking person in charge of table service to Edward the Confessor. He held large estates in Sussex, Kent and Normandy (Dorset Manuscripts, Collins’ Peerage, and Harris’s History of Kent). He is the 28th generation from me. His grandson was: Ralph de Dene, (3rd. recorded Denne ancestor) who in 1086 was recorded as the Lord of Buckhurst, Sussex and founder of Bayham Abbey (Cotton Manuscripts and Monast. Anglicum). He held large estates in Sussex, Kent and Normandy.
Another notable Denne was Sir Alured de Denne of Denne, 1234, (6th.recorded Denne ancestor / 23rd generation from me). He was a Seneschal (a steward) of Christchurch Priory, Canterbury, and the Escheator (collector of intestate property) of the County of Kent. Alured was said to be illustrious for his learning and was appointed by Henry III to form, with Sir Henry de Bath, the important laws of Romney Marshes, Kent.
Moving on in time, we have Sir Walter (or William) Denne of Denne (10th recorded Denne ancestor/19th generation). He was Member of Parliament for Canterbury and for Kent. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Hamo de Gatton and heiress of Boughton, Kent estates.
Subsequent Dennes in my blood line held fewer or no offices of but were largely wealthy landowners mostly in mid and east Kent. Sollys, being prolific in the same area, naturally formed alliances with them in marriage where their status and wealth matched theirs.
DENNE. An ancient Kentish family deduced from Robert de Denne, butler (pincerna) to Edward the Confessor. He is said to have been a Norman, though the surname is English, and is doubtless derived from West Dean, county of Sussex. Sussex Arch. Coll. v. 157.
Berry’s Kentish Genealogy, Parts I and II, London 1830.
Marion Denne (1868-1945).
Shelagh Lea, Ramsgate, Kent.
M. A. Lower, 1988 – A Dictionary of Surnames, Wordsworth Editions Limited.
Penelope Wilkins, Australia 22/01/08
Cecil Telford, Cambridge.