Select Webb Surname Genealogy

Weaving as an occupation has generated a number of surnames: Webb, Webster, Webber, and Weaver. The root is the Old English webba, meaning “to weave.”  The poem Piers Plowman has the following line: “My wife was a webbe and woollen cloth made.”

There was a definite south/north divide in the incidence of Webbs and Websters, rather than a male/female divide as the original Anglo-Saxon might suggest (webbestre meaning a female weaver). Webbs were mainly to be found in the south, Websters in the northand Scotland. Webbers and Weavers were much more geographic specific, Webbers in the southwest and Weavers in Cheshire.

Webbe was probably the early spelling.  But it gradually became Webb.

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EnglandEarly Webbs seem to have come from the west country. 

SW England.  The
byname Alger se Webba appeared in Devon around the year 1100.  A Webb family from Dorset was to be found in the vicinity of Stratford, Warwickshire by the mid-14th century.  They made their home at Bearley, a small village north of Stratford, and became prominent in court circles during Tudor times.  Mary Webb was William Shakespeare’s grandmother.  Richard Webb emigrated to America in 1626.

Early Webbs were to be found in Stroud in Gloucestershire, where they were prominent in the cloth industry, and on the Gloucestershire borders with Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.  Humphrey Webb, forebear of American emigrants, came from the Oxfordshire side.  One family history started with William Webb leaving his native Oxfordshire in 1770 to work in a papermill in Redditch, Warwickshire.  

There was a Webb family in Draycott, Wiltshire in the late 14th century and possibly earlier.  Alice Webb, the last of this line, married William Richmond in 1430 and their family became known as the Richmond Webbs. Edmund Richmond Webb was “Webb the duelist” after he killed Sir Thomas Eastcourt in a duel in 1684.  His son John also dueled, but married into money and built Biddesden House at Ludgershall in Wiltshire in the 1720’s.

There were also Webbs in the towns of Salisbury and Devizes.  William Webbe, whose parentage is uncertain, was by the late 1400’s one of the richest merchants of Salisbury.

“Webbe may have started his business in Southampton which was an important outlet for the Wiltshire cloth trade.  He built Church House on Crane Street there.  Poole was probably another port through which Webbe exported his goods as both his son and grandson did so, while his daughter married a merchant of the town.”

Benjamin Webb, a 17th century clothier in Devizes, was known as Benjamin the miser.  A relative of his, Philip Webb, went to London, prospered as a lawyer, and secured in 1763 through marriage a country estate in Surrey, Milford House.  Another Webb line in Wiltshire, found at Oldstock, were noted for their adherence to Catholicism.

SE England.  Kent had early Webbs in the southeast.  The Webbs at Frittenden may have come from Stratford.  But the Webbes at Sandwich and Canterbury were probably home-grown.  Bennet Webbe was mayor of Sandwich in 1488.  George Webbe, probably a nephew, was a corn merchant in Canterbury.  John Webbe was burnt at the stake in Canterbury in 1555 because of his Protestant faith.   London by that time had many Webbes, including the adventurer Edward Webbe who voyaged to the Levant and later recounted his escapades.

The 19th century distribution of the Webb name showed two groupings, one in and around London and including Kent and Essex and a second in the west country, extending north from Wiltshire through Gloucestershire and Warwickshire into Staffordshire.

Ireland.  George Webb, from the Catholic Webbs of Oldstock, was chaplain to Charles I and appointed Bishop of Limerick.  However, during the Irish uprising of 1641, Webb was imprisoned by rebels and died of jail fever. 

Other Webbs in Ireland arrived at the time of Cromwell or later.  William Webb, an engineer in Cromwell’s army, obtained land at Ballymote in Sligo.  Captain Daniel Webb established himself at Maidstown castle in Limerick.  Webbs were also to be found in Antrim, Dublin, Tipperary, and elsewhere.

America.  Richard Webb came to Boston in 1632 and later moved with the Rev. Hooker to found the new town of Hartford, Connecticut.  From his line came:
  • Samuel B. Webb, a General in the Revolutionary War.  He was aide-de-camp to Washington and wounded in three battles.
  • his son James Watson Webb, a newspaper publisher who later became a diplomat.
  • and his sons William and Walter who became railroad magnates and, with their connections to the Vanderbilts, one of the illustrious families of the Gilded Age.  William's son James was an American polo champion.  The family legacy is their Vermont home, now the Shelburne Museum.
Christopher Webb, who arrived with his father in 1645, was the Town Clerk in Braintree, Massachusetts.   His family had early associations with the Adams family.  Two Webbs from Salem were sea captains in the 1670's, John Webb and Daniel Webb. 

"The first recorded voyages by Webbs were in fishing ketches with small crews.  By the time of the American Revolution private brigantines commanded by Webb sea captains captured English ships and sold the cargo and ships as prizes." 

Captain William Webb mada a name for himself in the War of 1812.  The Webb seafaring prowess continued well into the 19th century.    

Virginia.  Giles Webb from the Stratford Webbs was an early arrival in Virginia, getting there with his father on the Thomas Babe in 1629.  His descendants ended up in Carroll county.  A Merry Webb family line began with the birth of Merry Webb in Henrico county in 1697.  John Webb, born in Pitsylvania county in 1725, had descendants who settled in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Australia and New Zealand
.  Two Webbs, Robert and Thomas, served as able seamen on the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 and their brother James was to follow them on the Scarborough two years later.  Robert was one of the first settlers to be granted land.  He died, however, in 1800.  James Webb was an early settler in an area that became known as Brisbane Water.

Edmund Webb, the son of a Cornish farmer, came to Australia for his health in 1847.  He settled in Bathurst, NSW.  Staring as a draper's assistant, he became one of the town's leading businessmen and a prominent local politician.  He built his home Hathrop on Vale Creek in the 1860's.

Thomas Stirrup Webb, the son of a Methodist minister in Staffordshire, was one of the first settlers to come to the northern Wairoa region of New Zealand.  He arrived there, a middle-aged man with wife and seven children, in 1863.  He acted for many years as the region’s JP.  His grandson Clifton Webb played rugby for New Zealand and went on to be an MP, Cabinet Minister, diplomat, and UN delegate.

Select Webb Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Webb Names

John Webbe was a Protestant martyr, burnt at the stake in Canterbury in 1555.
William H. Webb
was a 19th century American railroad magnate and one of the adornments of the Gilded Age.
Captain Matthew Webb
was the first recorded person to swim the English Channel in 1875.  However, eight years later he died in an attempt to swim the Niagara rapids.
Sidney and Beatrice Webb
were early members of the Fabian Society and co-founders of the London School of Economics in 1895.
Harry Webb was the given name of the singer who became Cliff Richard.

Select Webbs Today
  • 70,000 in the UK (most numerous in Essex)
  • 62,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 33,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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