Webb Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Webb Meaning
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
has the following line: “My wife was a webbe and woollen
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
suggest (webbestre meaning a female weaver). Webbs were mainly
to be
found in the south, Websters in the north and 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 Resources on

Webb Ancestry

Webbs seem to have come from the west country.

SW England. The byname
Alger se Webba
appeared in Devon around the year 1100.
Webb family from Dorset was to be found in the vicinity of
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
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
became known as the Richmond Webbs. Edmund
Richmond Webb was “Webb the duelist” after he killed Sir
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,
parentage is uncertain, was by the late 1400’s one of the richest
merchants of

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
married a merchant of the town.”

Benjamin Webb, a 17th century clothier in
Devizes, was known as Benjamin the
. A relative of his, Philip
Webb, went to
London, prospered as a lawyer, and secured in 1763 through marriage a
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

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
rebels and died of jail fever.

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
  • 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.

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.

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
made 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
in 1629. His descendants ended up in Carroll
county. A Merry Webb family line began with the birth of Merry
in Henrico county in 1697. John Webb, born in Pitsylvania county
in 1725, had descendants who settled in North Carolina, Tennessee, and

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

Edmund Webb, the son of a Cornish farmer, came to Australia for
health in 1847. He settled in Bathurst, NSW. Staring as a
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.

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
Cabinet Minister, diplomat, and UN delegate.


Webb Miscellany

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:

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
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
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

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
who by the way, going towards the stake, said certain psalms

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:

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
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
in his hall through which he passed ten times a day.
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.

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
near Merrywalks for close on two hundred years.

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.

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
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.”

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
and in surrounding parishes.

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:

the outbreak of war in 1812, a number of Salem
shipmasters risked their fortunes and their lives by fitting out a
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
And both of them were British ships full loaded with supplies,
Webb made
them haul their colors down and took them as his prize.”

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.

started his newspaper career at the age of 25 in 1827 with the purchase
of the Morning
, which he then consolidated with the New York Enquirer
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:

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

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
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
had counselled their daughters to marry blacks and that Lewis Tappan
divorced his wife in order to marry a black woman.

he grew older he wanted political
recognition and sought an ambassadorial post.
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.

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.

Webb was by that time a boat builder and
an owner of a sloop called William and
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
on account of James Webb of Cockle Bay to his wife Ann Webb.”  It would appear that they had separated by
this time.

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
on her death certificate.

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.

I like the man. There
is a directness of speech, an open-mindedness, an imaginative
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

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


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 Webb Numbers 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)


Select Webb and Like Surnames   

The various medieval trades and occupations were a source of surnames as John the baker would over time would become known as John Baker.  Some skilled craftsmen – such as chandlers, fletchers and turners – were able to form guilds, protective organizations, and style themselves Worshipful Companies.  These are some of the occupational surnames that you can check out.




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