Florence Amelia Hutchinson


Exceat Farm ox team with Charlie Pope, ox man. Early to mid 1920s

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Postcard publisher, Eastbourne and Westham. Although many women in the last century took up photography as a hobby, few had the means or the incentive to turn it into a business, and those that did so generally opted to specialise in studio portraiture (especially children's portraiture) rather than postcard publishing. Florence Hutchinson ignored the constraints and conventions of the time and established herself as a successful publisher of good-quality real photographic cards of Sussex. She issued many of her cards anonymously, and when she put her name and address on the cards she concealed her gender by referring to herself as "F. A. Hutchinson". There must be many collectors today who have fallen into the trap of assuming the cards are the work of a male publisher. They can take consolation from the fact that she managed to fool at least some of her contemporaries. Harold Shelton, for example, in his book Upland rambles in Surrey and Sussex (1932, Pitman & Sons) used some of her photographs as illustrations, innocently crediting them to F. A. Hutchinson Esq!

Hutchinson's real photographic cards have black and white photographs with white borders that are sometimes generously wide. The captions are boldly written in blocky, somewhat uneven capitals, with the first capital of each word larger than the rest. Unlike most publishers, Hutchinson made a point of dotting her capital "i"s. Because of the distinctive handwriting the cards cannot be easily confused with those of other publishers, except perhaps some that were issued by A.M. Bliss. For some peculiar reason, Hutchinson often printed her pictures upside down in relation to the card backs!

Hutchinson issued sets of cards of Hampden Park at Eastbourne and all the Downland settlements around Eastbourne (Willingdon, Wannock, Filching, Jevington and Friston), in the Cuckmere valley (Alfriston, Litlington, East and West Dean) and along the base of the Downs from Polegate west to Firle Beacon (Berwick and Alciston). She also spread far out into the Weald north of Eastbourne, producing cards of Upper Dicker (including Mr Horatio Bottomley's house), Michelham Priory, Ripe, Hellingly, Horsebridge, Chiddingly (Muddles Green) and Little London near Heathfield, for example. Tea Gardens were a speciality, in particular the Old Mill Gardens & Wannock House Gardens at Wannock and Thornwell Tea Gardens at Wilmington.

Postmarks suggest that Hutchinson began publishing her real photographic cards anonymously at the end of the Great War, but judging from the numbers of postmarks she was most active as a publisher in the mid and late 1920s. She was apparently still in business in the late 1930s. Her card of Charles Pope leading his ox team high on the Downs above East Dean is particularly delightful and often reproduced. The oxen were auctioned off on October 7, 1925, so the picture must be earlier than this. In similar vein, her card of Friston Church and Windmill must predate the latter's collapse in January 1926. Even earlier, perhaps, is a photograph of Birling Gap showing the wreck of the Italian tramp steamer, Ushla, which ran aground in November 1916, followed on April 15, 1919 by the German submarine U121, which was being towed to France as war reparations, but broke loose in a gale and drifted ashore next to the Ushla. It was several years before the two boats could be broken up for scrap. Hutchinson's photograph captures them lying side by side at the foot of the cliffs, presumably sometime in the early 1920s.

Florence took annual photographs of the Upper Dicker Cricket Club team from 1923 to at least 1927, which she printed up as postcards. Some are anonymous, but at least one carries her name and address on the back. She also produced cards of a ladies stoolball team, which she is believed to have photographed at Berwick on July 16, 1924.

Colour printed versions of two of Florence's Hampden Park cards have been found. One, showing the Dell, is a collotype printed in Saxony. On the back it is labelled "Photographed by A. E. Davis, The Tea House, Hampden Park". The second, which is a halftone reproduction of her photograph of a peacock, is another Davis card, and was posted in June 1914. It appears, therefore, that she began work in the Hampden Park area before the Great War, perhaps in response to a commission from Mr Davis.

Florence was married to George William John Robert Hutchinson, who is listed in Sussex Directories most often as George Hutchinson, but sometimes as William Hutchinson. The marriage took place at the Registry Office at Kingston-on-Thames on October 3, 1908. Florence stated that she was 20 years old and that her father was Frederick Nokes, a watchmaker. He or a namesake attended the ceremony.

Florence is readily identifiable in the 1891 and 1901 census returns, but locating her birth certificate has proved strangely difficult. The 1891 census catches her when she was just 3 years old, and living in Hackney with her parents and 1-month-old baby sister, Lilian M. Nokes. Florence's place of birth is listed as Stamford Hill. Her father, Frederick, who was already a watchmaker, had been born in about 1862 at Clerkenwell. Her mother, Alice M. A. Nokes (listed as Frederick's wife), had been born at Mile End in about 1863. Frederick's brother, William Nokes, a mechanical engineer, lodged with the family. The 1901 census tells much the same story. The Nokes family were still living in Hackney. There is no mention of Lilian (or William Nokes), but Florence, who was now 12, had a 1-month-old baby brother, Frederick Nokes, who had been born at Clapton. Her father continued to work as a watchmaker. Her place of birth is not stated, but the 1911 census confirms it was Stamford Hill.

The GRO index of births for the four years 1887 to 1890 lists only one Florence Amelia Nokes, whose birth certificate states that she was born on November 1, 1888 at her parent's home at 58 Flocton Street in Bermondsey, East London. The big surprise is that her father was Henry Nokes, a tinman, and her mother Ann Nokes, formerly Price. Although Henry Nokes could possibly have been related to Frederick, any suggestion that he and Ann gave their daughter away to Frederick and Alice can be ruled out. The 1891 census records that Henry and Ann Nokes had 11 children, including a 2-year-old Florence, who must have been their daughter born on November 1, 1888. Clearly, they had not given her up for adoption!

The GRO index also lists a Florence Jubilee Nokes and a Louisa Florence Nokes whose births were registered at Hackney in 1887 (in the June and September quarters respectively), a Florence Harriet Nokes registered at Bethnal Green in 1889 (December quarter), and in 1890 (December quarter) a Florence Nokes registered at Mile Road and a Florence Beatrice Nokes registered at Hackney. None of these provide a promising match for Frederick and Alice's daughter, Florence Amelia.

The details of George William Hutchinson's early life are rather easier to unravel. He was born on July 20, 1885, at 31 Cantelowes Road in Camden Town to George Hutchinson, a portrait painter, and his wife, Eleanor Blanche Hutchinson, formerly Jones. George Hutchinson senior had been born in about 1852 or 1853 in Canada (apparently in New Brunswick), and Eleanor in Clapham, south London in about 1856. They married in 1874 in London. When the 1881 census was held, the couple were living at 11 Pancras Road in St. Pancras and had three children: Benjamin Hutchinson, who had been born in about 1876 in Canada, Mary E. (or possibly Maria) Hutchinson, born in 1879 again in Canada and Christina Hutchinson, born in 1880 in St Pancras. By 1891 the family had moved to Hampstead. Benjamin was an art student. Like Mary E. he is listed in the census as having been born in Nova Scotia. When the 1901 census was held, Benjamin had left home, and his father was also away. Eleanor was living in south Wimbledon with her four youngest children. Maria or Mary E. Hutchinson, now 22-years-old was a music teacher, while Chrissie or Christina Hutchinson, who was 21, was working at home. In addition there were two teenage boys: George (William) Hutchinson, who was 15 and an apprentice, and Victor (Jubilee) Hutchinson, who was 13 and still at school. The census records that Maria had been born in Nova Scotia, but the three other children were Londoners. Victor went on to become a photographer at Walthamstow and later at Clacton in Essex where he traded under the name John Victor King.

George William Hutchinson's marriage certificate reveals that he was a postcard publisher, living at 27 Griffiths Road in Wimbledon (Florence's address was Queens Road, Wimbledon). It would be interesting to discover whether he published any cards of Wimbledon or Kingston.

In 1910 or 1911 George and Florence left Wimbledon for Sussex. The 1911 census records that they were living in a house called Myrtleholm in Lottbridge Road in Hampden Park on the northern edge of Eastbourne. With them was their 17-month-old daughter, Evelyn Marjorie Hutchinson, who had been born in Wimbledon. George was continuing to work as a photographer. He seems to have concentrated on outdoor photography rather than studio portraiture, producing some rather amateurish and now badly faded cards of the Eastbourne area labelled "Photo Postcard Co." (see the separate entry for George William John Robert Hutchinson).

In 1916 Florence and her husband moved to a house called Ingledene in Broderick Avenue at Hampden Park. By late 1918, she began publishing the good quality real photographic cards on which her present reputation is built. For the first few years she issued relatively small numbers of cards anonymously, but from 1924 onwards she increased production and began labelling many cards on the back "F. A. Hutchinson, Ingledene, Hampden Park, Sussex".

In 1926 the Hutchinsons moved to Dittons Road in Westham, to a house that they named "Ingledene", presumably because they had fond memories of their old house. After the move, Florence began labelling some of her cards "F. A. Hutchinson, Dittons, Pevensey, Sussex", even though the couple were Westham, not Pevensey, residents and Dittons was the name of the road, not the house.

Electoral Registers confirm that George and Florence Hutchinson were still living at Ingledene in Dittons Road at Westham in 1953, but by 1957 they moved to 3 Brenchley Cottages in the same road, where they remained until late 1962 or early 1963, when they moved to 2 Seaville Drive in Eastbourne. George Hutchinson died at St Mary's Hospital in Eastbourne on May 15, 1963, aged 77. His death certificate describes him as a retired poultry farmer. Presumably, he turned to poultry keeping after giving up photography, but local Directories make no mention of his farming activities.

Florence Amelia Hutchinson died aged 84 on February 15, 1972, leaving effects of £26, 829. She had been living at 2 Seaville Drive in Eastbourne. Her death certificate reports that she was born on June 14, 1888, although, as previously mentioned, there is seemingly no entry for her in the index of births. Her will discloses that she had a son, Alan George Hutchinson, who was living at 30 Botanical Road, Palmerston North in New Zealand, and in addition both a granddaughter, Rosemary Jean Mitchell, and a great granddaughter. It perhaps should not surprise us that Alan George appears to be missing from the index of births. Some strange administrative gremlin seems to have been at work, infecting first mother then son!

Acknowledgement: It is a pleasure to thank Marcel Safier (Queensland) for providing much useful background information about the Hutchinson family.

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