The People of Gibraltar
 1866 - The Pompous Attorney General - Gibraltar - Intro



The Rock of Gibraltar – Home to Frederick Solly-Flood from 1866 tp 1877  (1866 – Samuel Colman)


I decided a long time ago that I ought to write an article on Frederick Solly-Flood – I had come across the fellow often enough while researching for several of my articles on the People of Gibraltar. The fact that he was often referred to disparagingly as a pompous ass was an added incentive. Here are a few quotes that might set the scene, the first from a contributor to the Sole Society’s digital magazine:
Frederick Solly-Flood was a vivid sort of person who did not take his fences well and he got a good ducking at the water jump.  A gambler and villain of some order.  
And another one from Stephen Constantine’s Community and Identity which was published in 2009 
 . . . he was to become attorney-general . . .  and a corrosive critic of Gibraltar’s people . 
My general approach to this type of article is to write a short introductory chapter – essentially a potted biography hopefully available from a single reputable source. Unfortunately, this approach proved impossible. For a start research sources appear to be very thin on the ground. Worse still, almost every one of the few I have uncovered seems to contradict whatever I had read in the previous one – typos, incorrect dates and wrongly identified individuals being the order of the day. The following will probably only add to the general confusion – but I need an intro in order to deal with his contrastingly well-documented eleven-year stint as an attorney general in Gibraltar. 

I’ll start with his mum. Frederick Solly-Flood’s mother was Frances Flood. In 1799 she married Richard Solly in who is reputed by many to have been a fishmonger in London. Frances on the other hand was the only surviving daughter of the second marriage of a well-known member of the Irish gentry - Sir Frederick Flood, MP, King’s Counsel and Custos Rotulorum of County Wexford. Frances was his only offspring.

Another contributor to the Sole Society offers further information on Frederick’s father, Richard Solly. It seems that he was a partner of Isaac Solly and Sons – possibly a son of the founder of a company that was a major player in the British timber trade with the Baltic at the time. The firm suffered a serious setback when a number of their ships were confiscated during the Napoleonic Wars. 

Luckily in addition to this business, the founder served as a director of the Million Bank and was the chairman of the London and Birmingham Railway, and the British and American Steam Navigation Company. He was also the Governor of the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation as well as amongst the original proprietors of the London University. 


Entrance to Euston Station on the London and Birmingham Railway


The British and American Steam Navigation Company collapsed when their vessel the President – at the time the largest ship in the world - was lost in 1841


The Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation (1935)


Somerset House – London University had its offices here from 1837 to 1870

Given all this it is hard to understand why he is described as a “Fishmonger” elsewhere.  

The idiosyncratic character of Frederick’s grandfather is also conveniently laid bare in an article on Wikipedia:
In many debates which preceded the abolition of the Irish Parliament. Flood was a frequent speaker. . . Flood would rashly accept any suggestions made to him while speaking . . . one day, just after he had declared "that magistrates of Wexford deserved the thanks of the Lord Lieutenant" he added, on some wit's suggestion, "and should be whipped at the cart's tail". . .  
He steadily opposed the Act of Union, but when that measure was carried, he did not retire from politics, but sat in the united House of Commons for the County of Wexford from 1800 to 1818. He made no particular impression there.
A subscriber to the Sole Society adds that he was appointed Lord‑Lieutenant of Wexford in 1814. Sir Bernard Burke’s 1919 edition of the Landed Gentry of Ireland does not include this honour in his summary but does that of a "Custos Rotularum" - which I have since learned is more or less the same thing as Lord-Lieutenant. 

Very conveniently he is also supposed to have owned several landed properties of which only one is mentioned by Burke - Ballynaslaney House in Wexford which he inherited from his parents.

Unfortunately the Lord-Lieutenant’s only son died – unmarried - in 1800 which led to an attempt “to perpetuate Flood's title” by making him a baronet of the United Kingdom, "with remainder to his only daughter Frances. "




Flood Crest (Irish Landed Gentry 1911)


The truth is that I still don’t know what exactly was solved by making him a baron. And I certainly don’t know who eventually inherited the title. Whoever it was, it certainly wasn’t Frederick Solly who would undoubtedly have flaunted the fact as an adult. What he did do was change his name to Solly-Flood. Nor am I at all sure what was meant by the “remainder” in this particular case. Did Frederick’s mother inherit the lot including the properties and their lands?

In 1801, Francis gave birth to what would be her only child – Frederick Solly - the man I am really after. Two years later in 1803 Frederick’s father Richard died. He unfortunately broke his neck while out hunting. His son Frederick was only two years old at the time so he can’t have known him too well

By 1818 an entry in Burke’s Landed Gentry states that in Frederick now aged 17 and still a pupil at Harrow:
. . . assumed by Royal licence dated 14th October 1818, the additional surname and arms of Flood. 
Other sources suggest that he may have been influenced to do this after he had inherited his grandfather’s Irish properties. However, if as normally is the case, the inheritance took place after his father had died it would have taken place in 1824 when he was 23 years old – a reading of events that is confusingly at odds with other versions elsewhere.

Frederick left Harrow in 1819 and went to Cambridge University where he obtained a BA in 1825, and an MA in 1828. While he was reading for his degrees, Frederick’s grandfather died on the 1st February 1824 which happened to be before the patent for his new title as Baronet had passed the Great Seal. According to one contributor to the Sole magazine Frederick Solly:
. . .  left his estates to his grandson, Richard Solly, who look the name of Flood in addition to his own.
That “Richard Solly” I take to be a slip of the pen as Richard was not Frederick’s grandson but his son-in-law and who in any case had been dead for 11 years. Perhaps the most likely person he would have bequeathed his properties is therefore Frederick Solly who was indeed his one and only grandson and who did in fact change his name from Solly to Solly-Flood. 

All of which is at odds with Sir Bernard’s version of the events described previously. Who to believe? However, neither his grandfather’s death in 1824 nor his stay at Cambridge reading for his degrees stopped Frederick from getting married seven months later on the 24th of August 1824. The bride was Mary, the daughter of the Rev Thomas Williamson, Rector of Stoke Dameral. 

It may have been shortly after graduating at Cambridge that Frederick found himself with a wife and two children to support. There are various sources that suggest that by the time he left Cambridge he had become a Barrister-at-Law as well as  King’s Counsel.

As does Wikipedia: 
He entered Lincoln's Inn and was called to the bar in 1828, afterwards setting up in legal practice in London and becoming King's Council (sic).

Entrance to Lincoln Inn – Hopefully Frederick Solly-Flood passed through it quite a few times (Possibly early 20th century)

I will take it that “council” is a typo for “counsel” but there are still problems. The reference used by Wikipedia is the 1885 second edition of Joseph Foster’s Men-at-the-Bar and unfortunately the relevant entry is simply a copy of Burke’s – and Burke – normally so precise in ensuring that no honour should ever be left unrecorded - fails to mention anything about King’s or Queen’s counsel in so far as Frederick is concerned.

Luckily, I think I know where the confusion comes from. When Frederick Solly-Flood retired from his post in Gibraltar in 1877 the local authorities decided to honour him by appointing him QC. Embarrassingly, and after a considerable delay, the Chief Justice refused the application because he had not been originally “called to the Bar” in the proper manner and would have to retake his exams. I will deal more fully with this interesting episode in my chapter on his Gibraltar experiences.

For the next thirty odd years or more - from the 1830s to 1860s - there is a serious lack of information as to what Frederick Solly-Flood was up to. I can find nothing on their married life other than that they produced several children, among them Edward Thomas, Ferdinand and Frederick Richard

His eldest, Edward Thomas (1827 – 1897) must have been born when Frederick had probably just left Cambridge. He was not just Frederick’s eldest son but the family’s first child. According to notes written by a Sole Society Journal contributor:
He deceived his son Edward Thomas into signing over his vast inheritance from his maternal grandfather - Frederick Flood’s estate - within hours of reaching his 21st birthday.
It is a comment that perhaps reveals for the first time the rather odd – not to say unpleasant - streak in his character that Frederick would reveal every so often throughout his life. But it is also a comment that is hard to understand. Taking the event as read, this nasty affair was made even more despicable when Frederick lost the entire inheritance by betting the lot a few weeks later on a single horse in the Derby – a story which deserves repeating:
The 1848 Derby had 15 Runners.  The favourite was a horse called "The Colonel" ridden by Scot, owned by the Honourable Edward Petre, at 6 to 5 on.  "The Colonel" dead heated with "Cadland" ridden by Robinson owned by the Duke of Rutland.  The two horses ran off the same afternoon when "Cadland" beat "The Colonel" by a neck. 
The above is verifiable correct - other than for one – unfortunately - all-important detail – the race was held twenty years earlier in 1828 when Edward Thomas was not 21 but 1 year old.



“The Colonel” beaten by “Cadland” in the 1828 Derby (James Pollard)

I am not quite sure what to make of this, but it does call into question the date of the inheritance and who exactly inherited what. Further notes on the topic are not exactly helpful.
Edward got himself into quite a hopeless position when he fell in with his father's plans to get around his mother's will which passed on her substantial wealth to Edward (and) within 48 hours of his 21st birthday he was tied financially to his father who was an inveterate gambler and spendthrift. . .  
Edward celebrated his 21st birthday in 1848 so this particular inheritance can’t have had anything to do with his mother’s will as she is recorded by Burke and others as having passed away in 1864. 

One possible solution to all this is that it was precisely in 1828, just after Frederick’s grandmother died that he lost whatever inheritance came his way on the Derby bet. When Edward was celebrated his 21st in 1848 he may have come into money held for him until he had come of age since his grandfather’s death and that this was the money his father supposedly managed to swindle him out of - and possibly lost in some other gambling venture.

Whatever the case it is pretty evident that Frederick Solly-Flood was not a fellow to be trusted as confirmed by the following notes from the same source:
. . . the red-hot villain of the piece is Frederick Solly-Flood.  He was born with many golden spoons and squandered the lot.
The next eldest son, Frederick Richard (1829 – 1909) was his father’s favourite. He was commissioned into the 53rd Regiment of Foot and remained an army man for the rest of his life. He rose through the ranks and ended up as Major-General Sir Frederick Richard Solly-Flood. 

The youngest son, Ferdinand, (1834 – 1862) joined the Royal Navy and died in Gibraltar in 1862 while serving as a lieutenant in HMS Amphion. A commemorative plaque can still be seen in the local Protestant Queen’s Chapel.  


I am afraid I have no idea what caused his death at the age of 28, why he was in Gibraltar, or why he was buried there. 



King’s Chapel (Before 1879 – Captain Buckle Collection)

Incidentally, his mother's Will and Testament which covered over 60 pages was largely written by Frederick . . .  which also gives rise to another uncomfortable if speculative question – did he influence her in any way? Not that other members of the family were any more admirable. 
Daddy’s favourite, Frederick Richard, “usurped Edward Thomas from beginning to end”.  On Edward’s death, Frederick Richard gave Edward’s daughter Florence ten days’ notice to quit their home - Slaney Lodge - on the spurious grounds that he objected to her intention to marry a villager. However, two of his sisters . . . refused to comply with his instructions and Florence lived there for the rest of her life.

Slaney Lodge, Ballinapark, County Wexford – Is this the same house?

And it wasn’t just his brother that treated Edward badly – his father was just as bad: 
Meanwhile his father disowned him, leaving Edward, his wife and 5 young daughters living in the small Kyle cottage with its leaky roof and defective windows.  Edward was responsible for the financial side of the business in which he had a mortgage.
I am not sure what the business was but it must have been particularly galling for Edward when his father refused to allow him to move into the newly completed Slaney Lodge. Frederick selfishly wanted to keep it empty for whenever he decided to live in it himself.

By the 1860s however, things came to a head:
Edward's appeal to allow his family to take up residence were unsuccessful until at last, Edward said he would have to leave and go abroad to educate his girls cheaply on the continent.  
Why such a less than impressive threat should have worked is hard to understand – but it did. Permission was granted to take up residence for the annual payment of 430 pounds to his father. It was nevertheless a concession that lacked any real generosity as the land was too small to carry the burden of such a high rental - the relative worth of £430 pa in today’s money is around £40 000. So much so that a present day descendent of the Solly-Flood family was motivated to offer the following:
. . . and why he (Edward) did not throw himself down the nearby St David's Well I do not know.  He must have been a gallant gentleman.

St David’s Well (late 19th early 20th century – Robert French – National Library of Ireland)

In 1864 Frederick's wife Mary died The following year at the ripe old age of 64 Frederick was in such serious financial straits – one must presume as a result of gambling - that he was forced him to sell his legal practice and accept the post of Police magistrate and Attorney-General in Gibraltar. During his eleven year stay on the Rock from 1866 to 1877 Frederick appears on the only two local census reports taken during this period.


(1868 Census)

The 1868 Gibraltar census shows him living in 8 South Barracks Road. His age is recorded incorrectly as he was actually 67 when the census was taken.


(1871 Census)

His age seems to have been correctly recorded on the 1871 census. Julia Ann now 30 was still living with him in South Barracks – She does not appear on the 1871 record above because she was listed under Flood rather than Solly Flood.


The large complex of white buildings is South Barracks – South Barracks road would have been somewhere on the hill behind it – a nice place to live in with fine views over the Bay  (Late 19th century – J.H. Mann)

In 1877 Frederick Solly Flood finally retired. One would have imagined that he did so because he was feeling his age – he was 76 – but in fact - and as discussed above - it is much more likely that he did it in a fit of pique. He had applied for the position of Chief Justice of Gibraltar . . . and failed.

Despite what must have been a crushing humiliation for him Frederick returned to Gibraltar – although I have no idea why he did so. Admittedly he does not appear on either the 1878 or 1881 census but he certainly died on the Rock in 1888 as he was buried in the cemetery in the North Front of the Rock.

>Gibraltar North Front Cemetery - Frederick Solly-Flood's last resting place (Late 19th century – J.H. Mann)
But perhaps it would be nicer to end on a kinder note. 



He was still attorney general in Gibraltar and I certainly haven’t a clue as to what all this was about - - but I would say that at least on this occasion his heart was in the right place .