On February 21 1897 Annie Eliza Warren married the miner John Webb at St Peter’s Church in Newlyn. He was eighteen years her senior; he aged 51 years and she 33 years. There is no information about how they met or why John ‘Jack’ Webb, born in Camborne, married a Newlyn girl.
Annie Eliza was born in Newlyn Town. When her fisherman father died, the family moved out-the-Green to Gwavas Terrace, three doors from Henry and Annie Tonkin, a childless couple who let rooms to visiting artists. Annie Eliza was soon modelling for the artists to help the family finances.
In 1883, the 19-year old Annie Eliza was paid 6d an hour by Walter Langley, money which would have been very welcome to her near destitute mother. Langley’s painting, ‘But men must work, and women must weep’ depicted an old woman standing near a window, resting her hands on the shoulders of a younger woman (Annie) who has a baby on her knee. They are waiting through the storm for the fisherman husband to return. Langley set the scene in a Newlyn cottage interior. Could this have been Annie’s home? Was the old woman, Elizabeth her mother? Langley recorded paying Annie 2/6d per day for modelling for this picture, which at 6d an hour amounted to 5 hours a day; but the number of days she worked are not recorded.
Annie must have made a mark in the Newlyn Colony of Artists with her work for Langley, and was soon in much demand, a saviour to her little family. When Stanhope Forbes came to Newlyn his first lodging was just three doors from Annie’s home, with the Tonkins. Forbes began planning and making sketches for his famous picture, Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach, when he was staying, which must have been when he chose Annie to model for her star role. Poor Annie. We do not know how many hours she posed for ‘Fish Sale...’ or how the weather treated her. Forbes' most famous painting showed the end of an era for the historic fish traders on the beach, as the scene and the life it depicted was about to change with the erection of Newlyn’s South Pier.
Annie Eliza must have modelled for numerous other pictures and artists for which there are no records. She was still a beautiful woman when, at the age of 30, she modelled for Langley’s, Never Morning was to Evening, 1894.
Then, just three years later, her marriage to Jack Webb and their move to Camborne. Their first child Elizabeth ‘Ivy’ was born on February 9 1898, followed by a second daughter Eliza Jane on November 16 1899. Another daughter Mary Annie was born in 1902.
Women of West Cornwall.