In the last post I explored the theory that my great great grandfather George Webb might have been born in Wapping in 1844, the son of another George Webb. In this post, I want to set down what I’ve been able to piece together about this particular Webb family in chronological order. Since the name George Webb recurs in each generation, I’ve decided to refer to them by number, to avoid confusion.
If later census records are to be believed, George Webb (1) was born in about 1795 in Wapping and was married to Sarah, also born in 1795, in Deptford (which would have been a regular journey across the Thames for a waterman like George). It’s likely that Sarah’s maiden name was Mepham and that she was the daughter of Joseph Mepham and Ann Ewens. If that’s the case, then Sarah and George are probably the couple who were married at Darenth, Kent, in December 1820, a year before the birth of their first child.
Different sources attribute varying numbers of children to George and Sarah, but here I will only mention those we can be certain of from later census records. Their eldest son George (2) was born in 1821 in the parish of St. Clement Danes, Westminster, and their first daughter Sarah in 1822 in St. Mary le Strand. I haven’t found birth or christening records for either child; I believe that many records from St. Clement’s have been lost.
However, a third child John, who was born in 1827, is almost certainly the John Webb baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 9 August that year. According to the record, the Webbs were living at the time in New Exchange Court, a narrow passage running north from the Strand to Maiden Lane, to the east of Bedford Street. George’s occupation is given as ‘waterman’, so it’s likely that at this stage he was working on the upper reaches of the Thames, probably at one of the wharfs or stairs which would have been five minutes walk away on the other side of the Strand, where the Victoria Embankment is now. (Watermen were river workers who transported passengers along or across rivers and waterways.) At least two other children were born to George and Sarah while they were living in this part of London: William and Thomas Adolphus were born in 1830 and 1831 respectively, and both baptised at St. Clement Danes.
By the time of the 1841 census, the Webbs were back in George’s home district of Wapping, living in Queen’s Head Alley, which ran south from Green Bank towards the river. George (1) and Sarah were now 45 years old. Their sons George (2), John, William, and Thomas are still at home, as are four additional children: Louisa (born in about 1833), Joseph (1835), Walter (1838) and Nancy (1840). All of these later children were born in Middlesex, though I’ve only found baptismal records for Walter and Nancy, both of whom were born at 2 Queen’s Head Alley and christened at St. John of Wapping, on 9 May 1838 and 8 January 1840 respectively. However, the 1851 census record clearly states that Joseph was also born in Wapping, which means that the Webbs moved from Westminster to Wapping some time between 1831 and 1835.
The Webbs’ eldest daughter Sarah, who would have been 19 or 20 at this time, is not living with them in 1841, and I haven’t found a positive match for her in the census. She might be any one of the single young women of that name and age living in various parts of London at the time. For example, she might be the Sarah Webb who was working as a servant in the home of victualler Henry Cook in Drury Lane, not far from where she was born.
However, by 1851, when she is 29, Sarah is back with her parents in Queen’s Head Alley. Also still at home are Joseph, now 17, and Walter, 13, both working as errand boys, Nancy, 11, and granddaughter Sarah, 7 (though I’m not sure which of their children the latter belonged to). I don’t know where John, William, or Louisa, who would have been 24, 20 and 18 respectively, were living at this date. It’s likely that son Thomas is the person matching his name and age to be found working as a potman in a pub at 8 High Street, Norton Folgate, since his future wife Ann (see below) was living with her aunt Elizabeth in nearby Cock Alley and working as a servant.
(click on image to open in new window, then click again to enlarge)
We know, though, that the eldest Webb son, George (2) was married by this time. It’s likely that George married Elizabeth Hill in the early part of 1843 (the banns were read in February and March) at the church of Newington St. Mary, Southwark. Their eldest son George (3) was born at 4 Green Bank, Wapping on 14 August 1844 and baptised on 22 September at St. John of Wapping. At the time George (2) was following in the footsteps of his father – George (1) – and working as a waterman. According to later census records, a second son, William, was born in Wapping in 1847.
By the time of the 1851 census George (2), Elizabeth, and their sons George (3) and William, were living in Wapping Dock Street and George (2) was working as a lighterman. (Lighterman were river workers who transferred goods between ships and quays, aboard flat-bottomed barges called lighters, in the Port of London.)
Thomas Adolphus Webb married Shoreditch-born Ann Eliza Bradford, daughter of cabinet maker George Bradford, at St. John Bethnal Green in the early part of 1856 (the banns were read in March). By the time of the 1861 census, Thomas, now a dock labourer, and Ann were living at 9 Cinnamon Street, Wapping, with their children Alfred, 2, and Joseph, 7 months, both of whom were born in Wapping. Also living with them was their nephew George Webb (3), the son of Thomas’ brother George (2), now 16 and also a dock labourer.
I haven’t found any record for the death of George (1) and Sarah Webb, and I don’t know what became of them after 1851 (when they were both 56). Nor have I found any records after 1851 for their son George (2) and his wife Elizabeth. It’s possible they died before 1861, and that explains why their son George (30) was living with his uncle Thomas at that date.
In 1871 Thomas and Ann Webb were living at 2 Prusom’s Island, which was at the eastern end of Cinnamon Street, with their six children. Thomas died in 1877 and in 1881 Ann was living at 125 North Street, Limehouse, with five of her children, and working as a washerwoman.
As for her nephew George (3), it’s possible that, like his father, he married an Elizabeth and that their son – George (4) – was my great grandfather. But that theory remains unproven.