George Field arrived in Ventnor with his wife Sarah and three children in about 1843 from Yarmouth where he was in business as a ‘Tailor and Stay-Maker’ [corset maker]. They opened George Field’s General Drapery Establishment at No 1 Spring Hill, on the corner with the High Street. The photograph of the family below was taken in about 1864, and shows Sarah in the centre with George behind her, supportive hand on her shoulder, surrounded by their ten children.
The shop thrived, and the family became well established in Ventnor. It was very much a family business, with the children working in the shop, except for Lucy (seated on the left of the picture) who married a builder from Somerset and went to live in Kent. An advertisement for the shop in 1863 mentions the Millinery Department – Conducted by Miss Field‘ which stocked Ladies Corsets and Skirts in the most approved designs and a choice selection of French Millinery Bonnets to which Miss Field solicits special attention having made arrangements with a First Class Establishment to forward the new styles as they appear. Miss Field was the eldest daughter Agnes, on the left at the back of this photograph. Eldest son George Henry (second from the right in the back row) opened another shop at 40 Ventnor High Street, just across the road from his father’s shop in Spring Hill. [For more information about the High Street shop see George Henry Field, Gentleman’s Outfitters].
In about 1881 Lucy returned to Ventnor with her three children but without her husband – her marriage had broken down. It is hard to know how significant this was in the family’s decision to move to the other side of the world, but that’s what they did. In 1884, when George was 70 and Sarah 68, the Fields set sail for Australia, accompanied by most of their children and grandchildren. Only eldest son Henry stayed behind in Ventnor, ‘minding the shop’.
In the late nineteenth century thousands of people emigrated from the UK to Australia. Most of these were young ‘assisted’ passengers, who paid very little for their passage, which was long and arduous on ships sometimes plagued by outbreaks of disease among the closely packed passengers, who also faced a tough life in their new home. As an example, one such passenger, Margaret Drummond from Gateshead, arrived in New South Wales in February 1892, described bluntly in Australian records as Drummond Margaret, age 16, domestic servant, can read and write, RC, from Durham. She married another English emigrant, and according to her family, they cleared their land by hand with an axe, mattock and fire . . . She had a muzzle loading shotgun to protect the corn from the cockatoos and herself and her family from snakes.
The Field family emigration was very different. They paid their own fares, and the family was headed for Woollahra, on the outskirts of Sydney, which was a pleasant and fashionable area, perhaps not unlike Ventnor. Anthony Trollope, visiting Australia in 1873, described Woollahra House as a magnificent property covered with villas and gardens, all looking down upon a glorious sea. The Fields sailed on the ‘Patriarch’ , shown below, one of the fastest of the famous Clipper ships which could make the journey to Australia in 70 days. On this journey she was carrying 22 passengers, half of whom were members of the Field family. Painted green, with white masts, the ship must have been a beautiful sight when, according to Fay Brown, Relatives put off from Ventnor shore in a small boat to wave a last goodbye to passengers aboard the stately ship conveying them to their new home. The Fields never returned to England.
Lesley Telford, Ventnor & District Local History Society. Sources: Information from our archives and from UK census records. Painting of Patriarch by Jack Spurling. Family photograph from the Field Family in Australia.