Select Webb Miscellany



Here are some Webb stories and accounts over the years:

The Martyrdom of John Webbe


John Webbe, gentleman, was one of the 41 Kentish martyrs burnt at the stake during the reign of Queen Mary.  There is a martyr’s memorial to them near Wincheap Street in Canterbury.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
recorded the following:

“John Webbe was brought before the bishop of Dover and Nicholas Harpsfield or some other deputed, in their room on the sixteenth day of September; and there had propounded unto him such ordinary articles as it seemeth were commonly ministered by Bonner to those of his jurisdiction.

And being willed for that present to depart and to deliberate with himself upon the matter against the next time of his appearance, he made answer that he would not otherwise say (by God's grace) than he had already said, which was this: "As touching the sacrament of Christ's body, I do believe," quoth he, "it to be left unto his church (with thanksgiving) in commemoration of his death and passion, until his coming again. So that it is left in remembrance of his body; and not by the words of consecration to be made his body really, substantially, and the same body that was born of the Virgin Mary - I utterly deny that."

After this the said John Webbe, with George Roper and Gregory Parke, were brought  before the said judges: who there and then agreeing, and steadfastly allowing the former answer made before by Master Wehbe, were by the bloody prelates adjudged heretics. 

Therefore, about the latter end of November, they together were taken and brought out of prison to the place of martyrdom; who by the way, going towards the stake, said certain psalms mournfully."


Benjamin Webb the Miser


That noted miser Benjamin Webb, a clothier of Devizes, was referred to in the memoirs of Dr. Trusler as a wealthy relative of his.

Trusler said in his memoirs: 

“Being left executor to his own son, a bachelor, who lived under the same roof with him and who bequeathed to an aunt of mine £1,000, half to be paid six days after his funeral, Benjamin Webb carried his love of money so far that he would not bury his son, but kept him six months above ground, supported in his coffin on a pair of tressels standing in his hall through which he passed ten times a day. 

There the body would have continued till the old man's death had not the parish threatened him with a prosecution."


The Webbs of Stroud

Stroud grew in the 17th century to become the centre famous for cloth of exceptional quality, among them the famous Stroud scarlet.  The lengths of this cloth were dried in the fields.  Several historians have commented on their appearance in the landscape in and around Stroud in their day. 

The Webbs were a prominent family in this cloth industry.  The first of these Webbs appears to have been Thomas Webb from nearby Painswick.  The Webb family owned a home there called The Hill near Merrywalks for close on two hundred years.  

Thomas Webb was first recorded in Stroud in 1607 and died there in 1645.  After his death, his sons expanded the family presence in Stroud, each operating his own mill.  

“A wedding in 1675 was an opportunity to celebrate the importance of the Webb family.  The groom was the heir of William Webb of Stroud, a clothier who had bought the Brimscombe estate in 1648. Attendees included: William’s bother John, a clothier of the Newhouse; Thomas, clothier at Wallbridge; and Samuel clothier at the Ham.  The bride and other attendees came from other clothier families.”  

John Webb lived at the Gunhouse manor house and Samuel at a mansion called Doleman’s Ham.  The vicarage at Stroud was built by the Webb family and still has the clothiers' mark above the porch.


Reader Feedback - Early Webbs from Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire

My family has been researching Oxfordshire Webbs (my mother's maiden name) for many years now.  We have traced the family from Luton back to Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire.  We hit a brick wall with a Humphrey Webb who married a Mary Burton in 1621.  We have no idea where he came from as the records in Aston Rowant dried up.  However, we have always been suspicious that he may have moved into the area due to the lack of other Webbs in Aston Rowant and in surrounding parishes. 

We joined the Webb DNA project in the hopes of finding a clue.  This just opened up more mysteries, such as who emigrated to America anytime from 1600-1800.  Anyway, back to my question.  Do you think it is possible that Humphrey Webb came from Stroud or from the surrounding area?  I have found hints that some Webbs moved to Oxfordshire and even mention of a Humphrey. 

I am aware that there is a line of Webbs that includes connections to Shakespeare from the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire.  I believe they have a Humphrey in their tree and some from this line emigrated to America.  We know we are not related to them because of the DNA evidence.  

Kate Day (kateday@talktalk.net)


Captain William Webb and the War of 1812

William Webb was remembered as an owner and the first captain of the schooner Fame.  The Fame was commissioned as a privateer during the War of 1812.

Captain Rutstein explained what happened:

“At the outbreak of war in 1812, a number of Salem shipmasters risked their fortunes and their lives by fitting out a small fishing schooner as a privateer and manning it themselves.  The risk paid off.   Fame was the first American privateer to bring back a prize and, before she was through, she captured some 22 vessels.”

Captain William Webb emerged as something of a folk hero.  The Golden Hind Company published a traditional folk song, The Fame of Salem, that mentioned Captain Webb in one verse:

“Captain Webb had not sailed many leagues before he did espy
Two lofty ships a-windward, they came bearing down so nigh,
And both of them were British ships full loaded with supplies,
Webb made them haul their colors down and took them as his prize.”

After retiring from his career as a mariner, William Webb worked as an inspector at the Salem Custom House. However, he lost his job there for alleged incompetence. The incident was related in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne,who had a hand in his firing.



James Watson Webb, Newspaper Publisher and Diplomat

James Watson Webb, as a newspaper publisher or as a diplomat, never had a small opinion of himself. 

He started his newspaper career at the age of 25 in 1827 with the purchase of the Morning Courier, which he then consolidated with the New York Enquirer to form the New York Courier and Enquirer.  He remained connected with this paper for more than 30 years.  Historian Don Seitz wrote of those days: 

“James Watson Webb of the horrendous Courier and Enquirer, who was a good deal of what was known in that day as a 'lady-killer', sneered editorially at Greely’s ill-worn clothes.  

Just before indulging in this persiflage, Webb had been indicted, convicted and sentenced for acting as a second to Henry Clay in a duel with Tom Marshall.  The term of duress was two years in Sing Sing.  But Governor William H. Seward pardoned him before he went behind bars, in return for which Webb should name one of his sons ‘William Seward Webb.’" 

Webb had no hesitation in stirring up popular prejudices of his time.  In 1834 he recycled or invented extravagant rumors of miscegenation, that the abolitionists had counselled their daughters to marry blacks and that Lewis Tappan had divorced his wife in order to marry a black woman. 

As he grew older he wanted political recognition and sought an ambassadorial post.  Seward's biographer wrote: "James Watson Webb, an inveterate beggar for office, wanted a diplomatic post that would be lucrative."  Eventually he was appointed the minister to Brazil and served in that position for eight years. 

According to Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln’s biographer, Webb "believed that Lincoln should have appointed him major general, rating himself a grand strategist, having fought white men in duels and red men in frontier war."


James Webb in Australia

James Webb was one of Australia’s early settlers.  The brother of two First Fleeters, Robert and Thomas, he arrived in 1790 to serve in the NSW Corps.  On his discharge in 1794, he grew corn for the colony, built ships, and acquired land at Cockle Bay (now Darling Harbour) where he sold timber.

James Webb was by that time a boat builder and an owner of a sloop called William and Ann.  Did the Ann relate to the Ann Peat, the daughter of a partner, whom he had married in 1810?  Possibly not.  In 1815 Webb inserted a notice in the newspaper stating that “all persons are hereby cautioned against giving credit on account of James Webb of Cockle Bay to his wife Ann Webb.”  It would appear that they had separated by this time.

Sometime around 1823 Webb moved out into an undeveloped mangrove region up the coast that became known as Webb’s Flat (and later as Woy Woy and Brisbane Water).  He was its first white settler.  There he continued his shipbuilding and started farming.  The census of 1828 recorded that he had 540 acres in total, of which 75 were cleared and 70 were cultivated.  He had 11 horses and 120 head of cattle.

He was a rough type of man.  He once bragged how he had shot at point blank range Aboriginal men who were attacking his boat.  He took advantage of a young Aboriginal woman who bore him a child Charlotte in 1824.  Webb never had much to do with her upbringing and it is not surprising that when Charlotte passed away in 1913 he was not mentioned on her death certificate.

James Webb himself died on his land in 1848.  His age was given as ninety, but that is believed to have been an estimate.


Captain Matthew Webb's Memorial


Matthew Webb grew up in the small town of Dawley in Shropshire.  After his death attempting the Niagara rapids, his elder brother Thomas placed a memorial for him in his home-town.  It read: “Nothing great is easy.”

Matthew Webb is known to be the first man to swim the English Channel by his own power and without devices.  His accomplishment went unmatched for 37 years until 1911 when, after fifteen failed attempts, Thomas Burgess managed to repeat the feat.


Sidney Webb According to Beatrice Potter


When Beatrice Potter first met Sidney Webb, she was well-born and well-connected and he was poor and struggling.  However, there was something about him that drew him to her.  This was her diary entry of their first encounter in 1890.  

“Sidney Webb, the socialist, dined here to meet Charles and Mary Booth.  A remarkable little man with a huge head on a very tiny body, a breadth of forehead quite sufficient to account for the encyclopedic character of his knowledge, a Jewish nose, prominent eyes and mouth, black hair, somewhat unkept, spectacles and a most bourgeois black coat shiny with wear.

With his thumbs fixed pugnaciously in a far from immaculate waistcoat, with his bulky head thrown back and his little body forward he struts even when he stands, delivering himself with extraordinary rapidity of thought and utterance and with an expression of inexhaustible self-complacency.

But I like the man. There is a directness of speech, an open-mindedness, an imaginative warm-heartedness which should carry him far.  He has the self-complacency of one who is always thinking faster than his neighbors, who is untroubled by doubts, and to whom the acquisition of facts is as easy as the grasping of matter; but he has no vanity and is totally unself-conscious.”

They married in 1892 and the two remained together and shared their political and professional lives until Beatrice’s death in 1943.




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