Time and Tide

A young woman, pregnant and desperate, is last seen jumping from the landing stage near Morecambe clock tower into the sea, her blue coat flaps in the wind. Another young woman passes by, but does not stop to help. The next day the body of Eva Wilcox is found caught in a fisherman’s net and is taken by cart to the mortuary.

On the 7 June 1918, witnesses gathered to try to make sense out of the tragic events of the previous days. On the 6 June police sergeant Edward Edwards had been called to examine the body of a young woman. She had been found at 3.30am on the sands about a mile from the coast by a fisherman called Robert Townson attending to his nets. The body was later identified by Mr William Wilcox of Sheffield as that of his daughter Eva Annie Wilcox aged 22. In the detailed description written by Edwards in the police ‘Notice to the Coroner’ it was stated that “In the clothing I found the following articles, a dark brown purse containing 1 ½ in copper a Sheffield Savings Bank book no. 174618 with name Eva A. Wilcox therein, and a withdrawal entry dated 3rd June 1918. Pocket knife with name Eva Wilcox stamped thereon, also a post card photograph of soldier inside the clothing next to the skin, and on it the words “George Wallis” 1914 “the only boy I ever loved.” Also metal brooch with the letters “baby” thereon. The inquest file that resulted from these proceedings, and which is held at Lancashire Archives, records the statements of the witnesses who reveal details of events as they happened.

It seems that Eva had left her home in Sheffield on Monday 3 June and travelled to Morecambe without telling anyone where she was going. She later sent letters to her father, twin sister Lucy and her aunt Sarah which contained suggestions of suicide and that she was ‘in trouble’. On the morning of the 3 June she arrived at the house of George Wallis who she had been seeing until she broke off the relationship by letter, telling George that ‘it was best to get a boy in her own town’. They walked from Lancaster to Morecambe, but what they talked about we will never know. George left Eva at the boarding house of Lavinia Sutcliffe, 29 Sea View Parade. She stayed for one night and left the next day saying she was going home.  George saw Eva again on the 4 June when he met her on the promenade for an hour or so, that was the last time he saw her alive. The next day he received a letter from her indicating that she was contemplating suicide.  At 9.50pm on the 5 June Hilda Gray was in Marine Road when she saw a woman suddenly jump into the water, “I thought she was bathing and took no further notice and walked on” said Hilda in her witness statement.

Eva’s tragic story and others found in the inquest files of the Lancaster and Morecambe Coroner’s records at Lancashire Archives. Coroners’ inquests from 1914-1918 held at Lancashire Archives were used as source material to explore connections between our lives now and those a hundred years ago. The project intended to reveal how World War One impacted within the local community, bringing to light untold stories of everyday life.

The writing in this pamphlet was produced in a series of workshops run in Lancaster and Morecambe libraries by writer Sarah Hymas and senior archivist Vicci McCann on behalf of Lancashire Archives. The project was sponsored by the Friends of Lancashire Archives  with Arts Council England funding.

Eva’s inquest record is at Lancashire Archives


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