As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is some evidence pointing to my great great grandfather, house decorator George Webb, being the son of cooper John Webb. I’m still not absolutely convinced of this connection, but here’s a reminder of the evidence, kindly sent to me by Pat Tennant in Australia:

Pat is a descendant of Alfred Webb, born in 1884 at 83 Cornwall Street, the son of bricklayer George Webb and his wife Elizabeth. Pat has emailed me a copy of Alfred’s birth certificate, which clearly states that his mother was ‘Elizabeth Webb formerly Knight’. Unless there was another couple sharing exactly the same names marrying in Stepney at around the same time, then it seems certain that George and Elizabeth were married at St. Thomas Stepney on 2 October 1865. As I’ve noted before, this date would fit perfectly with the birth of their first child, Susannah, the following June.

The marriage certificate records that George was working as a cooper, the same occupation followed by his father John. The discrepancy with George’s later employment is a slight concern, but George, like other working men in London at the time, changed his occupation often, working variously as a labourer, dock labourer, bricklayer and finally as a house decorator and master painter. Perhaps when he married Elizabeth (he would have been about 19 or 20 at the time) he was still working alongside his father John.

Pat has found the birth certificate of a George Webb born on 24 May 1846 to John Webb, cooper, and his wife Margaret Webb, formerly Clark, at 2 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel.  The 1861 census record for 22 New Road, St. George in the East, lists John Webb, 72, a dock cooper, his wife Margaretta, 53, and their two sons William, 16, a clerk in the London docks, and George, 14, a cooper at the same location. This certainly matches the information we have for George at the time of his marriage, and also his later occupation as a dock labourer. The New Road ran eastwards from Cable Street through Shadwell and was not far from the streets where George and Elizabeth would raise their family in later years.

London docks

Ten years earlier, in 1851, John and Margaretta had been at the same address with William and George, and they also had a one year old daughter Margaretta, who must have died in infancy. This record states that William was born in Stepney and George in Whitechapel.

There is a record for John Webb, cooper, in the 1841 census for Gloucester Street, which seems to have been very close to the Fieldgate Street address where George would be born. It may also help to explain the age difference between John and Margaretta in the later records. Here we find John Webb, 52, Margaret Webb, 55, Margaret Clark, 28, and Ann Craig, 18, a servant. John’s age is broadly in line with later census records. However, even allowing for the tendency of the 1841 census officials to round ages up or down, Margaret Webb’s age (55) is incompatible with that of the Margaret Webb in the later records. What’s more, if these are John’s and Margaret’s true ages, it seems unlikely that they would go on to have two children together.

Given that we know that the maiden name of George’s mother was Clark, one possibility is that John was married twice and that the Margaret Webb in the 1841 census was his first wife, who died shortly afterwards. John then married the Margaret (or Margaretta) Clark who was living at the same address as the Webbs in 1841, even though her age does not exactly match with the Margaretta in the later records.

Of course, this leaves a number of questions hanging. Why was the younger Margaret living with the Webbs in 1841? What was her relationship at the time with John and/or Margaret?


A Margaretta Clarke was baptised at St. Paul Shadwell on 27 September 1807, a date that would fit with the Margaretta Webb in the 1851 and 1861 records. She was the daughter of Francis Clarke, a shipwright, and his wife Margaret, of Wapping Wall, who had at least four other children: Ann (born 1801), Elizabeth Ann (1803), Francis (1805) and Jane (1808).

The only record I can find of a marriage between John Webb and Margaret Clark took place in Southwark in 1813 (we only have records for the banns, which were read in September of that year). This Margaret was said to be a widow. John and the ‘first’ Margaret would have been about 24 and 27 respectively at the time. Is it possible that John’s first wife was also a Margaret Clark?