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Mary Ann Phillips Bloomfield nee Hutchings (known as Annie)


Addendum (exploring facts and theory where Annie was between 1901 -1909)                                                         

 What happened to Annie after her mother died in 1901?

  • Did she stay in or around East Prawle or did she move?
  • Did she live with her sister, Betsy Eva and her husband William George Eastman and their children, from the time of the death of her mother until the death of William George in 1913?

One story passed down through the family is that Annie went to look after her terminally ill sister, Betsy Eva in 1909, who lived in Ventnor, IOW. There are reasons for this version to be doubtful, although Annie was definitely looking after her sister at the time of her death in Ventnor IOW.

This is what we know:

  • 1901 – Annie’s mother died when Annie was 9. Her siblings in order of age at this time were:
    • Betsy Eva 19
    • Richard Hopwood 17
    • Robert Phillip and William Trible 7 (they were twins)

Therefore in 1901, there were 3 dependent children: Annie and the twins.

  • 1901 – The sequence of events was:
    • 03.1901 – Census when the whole Hutchings family with their mother, Jane Edwards Hutchings (nee Phillips) lived in the same Coastguard building in East Prawle with William George Eastman
    • 8th June 1901 – Jane Edwards Hutchings, the mother, dies
    • Q3 1901 – Betsy Eva and William George marry in the local church
  • 1902 – Betsy Eva and William George Eastman have their first child, Eva Melita Jane (Melita), in East Prawle.
  • 1903 – Richard Hopwood, Annie’s eldest brother, joined the Royal Navy.
  • 1903 – William George Eastman (with Betsy Eva and Melita) was transferred to the Coastguards at Paignton.
  • 1904 – William George Eastman (with Betsy Eva and Melita) was transferred to Atherfield, IOW, in August. They had two more boys whilst living there.
  • 1907 – William George Eastman (with Betsy Eva and Melita) transferred to Ventnor IOW in April.
  • 1909 – There is no doubt that Annie was in Ventnor nursing her sick sister in the family house of the Eastman’s. This information has been passed down through the family and not disputed.
  • 1909 – Betsy Eva died of enteritis (confirmed on death certificate). I am not a medical expert but I would have thought that this was an illness that was short term, or maybe it was a secondary illness to a more long-term primary complaint not mentioned on her death certificate? The Eastman file does refer to her death being caused by pernicious anaemia and if this was the underlying illness it could have been a chronic condition.
  • 1910 – 1919 – Annie’s presence in Ventnor confirmed by postcards and the 1911 Census.
  • 1911 Census – Annie is in Ventnor, living with William George Eastman and his two boys. Melita is living in Plumstead with her Uncle. Annie’s twin younger brothers are both still in Devon but apart and still found close to East Prawle. Robert Phillips is still a student and visiting relatives in Devonport while William Trible is living and working in Salcombe.
  • 1911 – When William George Eastman is ill, and in an isolation hospital, Annie is looking after his two boys and sometimes Melita. Annie is communicating by postcard to Melita when she is away. Annie and Melita appear to have had a close relationship judging by the fondness contained in their postcard messages between 1910 and 1914. This may suggest that Annie’s relationship with all 3 children was well established, certainly sufficient enough for her to be given the responsibility to look after them.
  • 1913 – William George Eastman dies. His two boys are sent to live with relatives in Whitchurch Hants and Melita returns to her relatives in Plumstead.
  • 1913 – Annie met her future husband, Thomas Miles Bloomfield, for the first time when he was first stationed at Ventnor in 1913. This contradicts the family version which always explained that she met him when she was nursing her sister, Betsy Eva, which would have been 1909.
  • 1914 – Annie and Thomas Miles Bloomfield married in Ventnor. Melita returned to be a bridesmaid.
  • 1914 – Thomas Miles Bloomfield re-joins the navy at the outset of WWI.
  • 1915 – Annie has her first child, Eva Mary (Mary). Annie continues to live in West Street Ventnor for the duration of the War.
  • 1919 – Thomas Miles Bloomfield returns for the first time and within a few weeks they mover to Eire.

Theory of where Annie was between 1901 – 1909

When Annie’s mother died, she and her twin younger brothers would have been dependent children. It is feasible that they stayed with, and were looked after by, her sister Betsy Eva and her husband William George Eastman as they were all living in the same Coastguard cottages at this time and William George Eastman continued to be stationed at East Prawle.

In 1903 Richard Hopwood, Annie’s eldest brother, joined the Royal Navy. So, when William George Eastman and Betsy Eva moved to Paignton, later in the same year, the 3 dependent Hutching’s children either:

  • moved with them
  • moved to another family
  • or they were split up at this time and moved to different places.

There are no family stories handed down or information found during research suggesting they were put into a Poor House.

The 1911 Census shows that Annie was by now in Ventnor (indeed also in 1909 and 1910) but her younger twin brothers were still in Devon, relatively close to East Prawle. There is a possibility, therefore, that in 1903 Annie moved with her sister Betsy Eva and her husband William George Eastman, and the twin brothers, Robert Phillip and William Trible stayed with other relatives in East Prawle.

The only relatives that looked like they were able to take in these children, in East Prawle in 1903, would have been on the maternal (Phillips) side of the family (in particular the Gordon’s). This suggestion arises from the fact that Robert Phillip was found in the house of Patrick Henry Grant Gordon and his wife Eliza Jane (nee Phillips) in the 1911 census although as a visitor/student). In later life photo album evidence from Eva Mary (Mary) Bloomfield includes a lot of the Gordon family in particular. A close relationship continued. All the Hutchings family appear to have died, moved away or were incapable of looking after children in 1903.

The 1909 death of Betsy Eva, in Ventnor, appeared to be from an illness that happens quickly, so the idea that Annie travelled from somewhere (remote rural Devon) where she was already living (say East Prawle) to Ventnor to nurse her sister is unlikely. The lines of communication and transport speed in those days would most likely have been slower than the time it took for the illness to manifest itself and take it’s course. This suggests that Annie was already in Ventnor.

Furthermore, one has to consider what would have been a very difficult journey from East Prawle to Ventnor at this time particularly for a 17 year old girl, alone, and with no previous experience of travel. The railway network was, by now, built across the south of England but there would have been several connections to complete this journey and travel would have included horse carriage (cars were only just being introduced for the very rich) and also a ferry journey across to the IOW. Thereafter further transport including probably train and horse carriage would have been used again. The intrinsic cost of this, would surely have been inhibitive for a poor family, which also adds to the reason that makes this journey seem improbable.

The relationship between Annie and Melita appears to be very close and also with Melita’s two brothers.  This would not necessarily have developed this quickly if they were previously unknown to each other.

Annie could not have met her future husband, Thomas Miles Bloomfield, when nursing Betsy Eva in 1909 (as the family story states). He did not go to Ventnor until July 1913 when he had finished his commission. The more likely scenario is that Annie stayed on, after the death of her sister, in the household of William George Eastman, as she had been since 1901, and was nursing him and looking after his children when she met Thomas Miles Bloomfield for the first time.

My preferred theory on what happened to Annie favours the story that after her mother died, she stayed in East Prawle until 1903 with the rest of her siblings in the household of William George Eastman and Betsy Eva. In 1903, the family split when the elder brother Richard Hopwood joined the Royal Navy and William George Eastman and Betsy Eva moved to Paignton. At this time Annie was split up from her two younger twin brothers who were looked after by local relatives in or near East Prawle. Annie continued to stay with her sister and brother in law along their journey in life leading to Ventnor until they both eventually succumbed to an early death. At this point, Annie met her future husband, Thomas Miles Bloomfield, in Ventnor, and they then started on her own married journey in life which was also, sadly, cut short by illness.

It is very difficult to contemplate Annie travelling alone either to attend to her sister during her illness be it just before her death or even at an earlier time.

At the time of researching and writing this addendum there were no records found to trace Annie or her younger twin brothers during the period 1901 to 1909 (no school records available at East Prawle, Paignton and Ventnor, no family information, no newspaper cuttings, no county or local historical society information) or any other record of their whereabouts.

This theory is based purely on limited circumstantial evidence.

Graham White Grandson

28th April 2020