Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: December 02, 2018
Webpage updated: January 04, 2020




Born on May 29th 1831, as George William Culme Soltau, the eldest son of Mr George William Soltau and his wife, formerly Miss Frances Goddard Culme, daughter of the Reverend Thomas Culme, of Tothill House, Plymouth, whom he married in 1823.

By Royal Licence in 1845, he adopted the surname and arms of the Symons, following the death of his great-uncle, Colonel William Symons, of Chaddlewood, in the parish of Plympton Saint Mary, with whom he was living.

Educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford, he matriculated on May 23rd 1850.  He was appointed a justice of the peace and deputy-lieutenant for the County of Devon.

Upon leaving Oxford in February 1853, Mr Soltau-Symons, in company with Mr Charles Bere, also of Christ Church, Oxford, entered upon a journey to Saint Petersburg and Moscow, where they stayed for several weeks before continuing to Warsaw and Vienna to Constantinople.  On May 28th 1853 they left the latter place for Odessa, where they were kept in quarantine for a few days before being escorted to the Customs House for their papers and luggage to be examined.  Unfortunately for Mr Soltau-Symons, the Russians were on the look-out for a Polish gentleman by the name of Soltan.  As the names were so similar and a description of this person had not been circulated, the police at Odessa arrested Mr Soltau-Symons instead.  He was detained, sometimes with a guard and sometimes without, until July 12th, when the pair returned to Constantinople.  They eventually returned to England where they were given a full apology by the Russian Ambassador.

After his return to England, Mr Soltau-Symons joined the Devon and Cornwall Miners' Artillery Militia, and for two years commanded the Devon Company while they were quartered at Pendennis Castle, Falmouth.

Mr George William Culme Soltau-Symons married the Honourable Adele Isabella Graves, the daughter of William Thomas, the third Baron Graves, on December 15th 1859.

His first wife died in December 1869 and on January 12th 1875 he married Mary Elizabeth, the widow of Sir John Coventry, of Henbury and The Knoll, near Wimborne, Dorset.

For some fifty years Mr Soltau-Symons took a keen interest in agriculture and politics.  He was a founder member of the Devon and Cornwall Chamber of Agriculture and frequently its president and chairman.  He attended the preliminary meetings of the Devon County Agricultural Association, when it was formed by the amalgamation of the South Devon Agricultural Society, of Totnes, and the Agricultural Association, at Exeter.  The two separate bodies argued over which of them should provide the first secretary and Mr Soltau-Symons satisfactorily arbitrated.  He was also one of the founder members of the West of England Fat Stock Society.

His first appearance in politics was in the hustings at Plymouth in 1847.  Many years later, in 1868, he was asked to stand as the Liberal candidate for the South Devon Division, to which he agreed.  But a few days later he received a letter from Lord Russell expressing the wish that his son, Lord Amberley, should be the candidate and Mr Soltau-Symons withdrew.  However, he considered that Lord Amberley was a poor candidate and that the Liberal Party had spent so much time and effort on the campaign in Plymouth to the detriment of South Devon and Lord Amberley lost to Sir Massey Lopes, the Conservative candidate.

Mr Soltau-Symons tried once more to enter Parliament, in 1874, when he was invited to become the Liberal candidate for Devonport, but he beaten into fourth place behind his fellow Liberal candidate, Mr J D Lewis.  That was his last attempt to enter politics but served for the rest of his life as an active Liberal and keen supporter of Mr F B Mildmay, of Flete, South Devon.

In September 1903 Mr Soltau-Symons was elected an Alderman on Devon County Council in succession to the Reverend Anson W H Cartwright.

During his lifetime he followed his grandfather and father in his keen interest in and support for the Plymouth Public Free Schools, which his grandfather helped to found.  When the School was transferred to the Plymouth Local Education Authority, Mr Soltau-Symons said: 'We are giving Plymouth a magnificent site and a very valuable one, and, for whatever educational purpose it is appropriated, we may have every  confidence it will be for the best interests of the children of the town and its high educational reputation long maintained.'

He was an enthusiastic supporter of many local charities and charitable organisations.  He joined the committee of the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital in 1862, ten years after he became a life-governor in return for subscribing 40 guineas (42) to the venture, and served for 46 years before being elected as president.  He was a founder and later president f the Plymouth Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society; a trustee of the South Devon and Cornwall Institution for the Instruction and Employment of the Blind; a life-governor of the Devon and Cornwall Female Orphan Asylum; one of the founders and a vice-president of the Mount Edgcumbe Industrial Training Ship for Homeless and Destitute Boys; he was a governor of Hele's Grammar School, at Plympton; he was a trustee of the Maudlin and William Hole Symons charities; and a strong supporter of the Church Army and the Salvation Army, to whom he frequently opened his grounds for fetes.  And in addition to all those organisations, he also supported Mr Trelawny's Hounds and was an active gardener and supporter of gardening and flower societies.

Mr George William Culme Soltau-Symons died at his residence, Chaddlewood, Plympton, on the afternoon of Sunday October 29th 1916.  The funeral took place at Plympton Saint Mary Church on Wednesday November 1st 1916.

The Soltau family line

It may be useful to give some information about the origin of the family.  Marten Wilhelm Soltau, came from Bergedorf, Hamburg, Germany.  His eldest son, Mr George William Soltau, was born at Bergedorf in 1748 and later moved to London, where he settled as a merchant.  He became a naturalized Britain by Act of Parliament.

He married Miss Anna Hodgson, the daughter of Mr William Hodgson, of London.  In 1800 their son, Mr George Soltau, married Miss Elizabeth Maria Symons, daughter of Mr William Symons, of Chaddlewood, Devon.  They settled at Little Efford, in the parish of Eggbuckland.

Mr George William Soltau, father of Mr George William Culme Soltau-Symons, was born in 1801.