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John Webster [we]

Tree showing lineage from John Webster to grand daughter Kate Webster

The parentage of John Webster born c1763 is still unconfirmed but our current research reveals the following.  

According to a letter written by John’s grandson, Rev Wentworth Webster [we.2.4], on December 15th, 1894, John’s father was a Dr Webster, who originated from the Webster family of Ferry Hill, Aberdeen, Scotland.  Dr Webster upset his family by taking the winning Government side after the Battle of Culloden in 1745.  He travelled south with the Duke of Cumberland & entered into the service of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of George III, as family physician at Cliveden, Berks.  After the Prince died in 1751 (the result of a blow to the head with a cricket ball) he continued as physician to Frederick’s widow Princess Augusta of Saxe Coburg & her son (George III to be).  Whilst at Cliveden (near Hedsor), Dr Webster planted 3 oaks in the grounds, which were known as Webster’s Oaks.  Wentworth Webster states that Dr Webster married Miss Wappschott whose family had property in Gloucestershire & they had just one child, his grandfather, John.

As no public record of this Webster/Wapschott marriage has been found, a further search for possible clues as to John’s parentage has revealed the following.  There is a record of a christening for a John Webster on March 16th, 1763 at Burnham to parents Mary & John Webster.  The will of a John Webster, grocer, of Burnham who died in 1790 reveals his sizeable estate to be bequeathed to his wife Mary & his 3 children, Elizabeth, John & Mary.  The executors of his will were his wife Mary & his brother-in-law William Cox.  This would suggest that this John Webster married Mary Cox.  No evidence of this marriage has been found, but there is a record in the Phillimore transcriptions of Burnham marriages for a John Webster, gardener of Hedsor, marrying Mary Mason, a widow, on November 27th, 1760 (ref. Esther Byrt’s genealogy site).  The births of Elizabeth (born 1761), John (born 1763) & Mary (born 1766) would fit with this marriage.  There is a marriage for Mary Cox to Edmund Mason, a butcher, in April 1756 in Burnham but Edmund died soon after the wedding.  We suggest that Mary Mason’s maiden name was Cox. There are burial records for both Mary Webster (died 1797) & John Webster (died 1790 aged 75) at St Peter’s, Burnham. 

The will of William Cox mentioned above was written in 1795 & proved in 1809.  In it he gave substantial legacies to his nephew John Webster, a shopkeeper, & nieces Elizabeth (wife of Mr William Hickman) & Mary Webster, spinster.  Nephew John Webster was also a co-executor of William’s will.  This evidence adds weight to our suggestion that the parents of John Webster born 1763 were Mary Mason (nee Cox) & John Webster.

John Webster (born 1763) married Frances (or Fanny) Bayley on August 29th, 1796 at St Clement Danes, Westminster. On the marriage bond of John & Fanny, John gave his occupation as grocer. Fanny was born c1756. She had previously married Thomas Bayley on May 7th, 1776 at St Martins in the Fields, London, & they had 3 children – Thomas, William & Anne Bayley. Thomas Bayley died May 14th, 1787 & one of the witnesses to his will was John Webster of Burnham. In 1790 Fanny became the domestic partner of John Edgson (a neighbour) but according to a diary written by him, he & Fanny never married due to ‘family complications’ (ref. Esther Byrt). John Edgson & Fanny had a daughter – Emma Bayley c1790.

John Webster & Fanny had 4 children before her death on October 10th, 1801. Fanny was buried with her daughter Anne Bayley in Burnham.

The known children of John Webster & Frances Bayley (nee Hoare) were:

we.1. Joanna Webster born c1791
we.2. Charles Webster born March 27th, 1796 at Burnham, died August 19th, 1881 at Uxbridge
we.3. Henry Webster born October 30th, 1799, died April 9th, 1859 at Sydney, Australia
we.4. Laura Webster born August 13th, 1801, died November 19th, 1821.

John married Elizabeth Compton Hearne by licence on October 5th, 1802 at Ealing, Middlesex. The fact that John had previously been married was confirmed by the letter ‘w’ shown after his name on the parish register. Elizabeth was christened January 18th, 1775 at St Nicholas, Chiswick, London, the daughter of Elizabeth Feesey (see below) & Thomas Hearne.

Pallot's Index of John & Elizabeth's marriage in 1802


John was one of the executors of the will of Richard Feesey in 1814.  Richard Feesey was a wealthy yeoman of Burnham & in his legacies he left considerable sums to John & his wife Elizabeth Compton. Their son John Hearne Webster also benefited from Richard’s will.  Richard Feesey was named one of the executors in the will of Elizabeth’s father, Thomas Hearne, in 1782 & stated to be the brother-in-law of Thomas.  The Feesey name was given to John & Elizabeth’s first child.

Grandson Wentworth Webster’s letter of 1894 reveals that Elizabeth was ‘a woman of great natural ability & force of character.  She had a passion for botany & a marvelous memory.

John lived in Burnham & worked as a farmer, seedsman & corn contractor.  According to the letter of Wentworth Webster ‘He (John) made a fortune as one of the contractors who supplied the army with corn during the Peninsular War.  He sent the corn by wagons from Burnham to Portsmouth & I was told that Burnham was frequently blocked up by his wagons.  When peace was proclaimed he contracted to supply all the coaches from London, on the Bath road & several other coaching & hunting establishments & noblemen’s stables.  This paid so badly & he lost all his money.  He was said to be the first person who arrested a Peeress for debt.  The Countess of Orkney owed him £800.  He waited with a postchaise at Westminster till the bill which enabled him to arrest her became law, & then chased & overtook her at Dover where she signed a cheque which was duly honoured.  This saved him from bankruptcy & enabled him to live quietly as farmer, seedsman & corn dealer, in a quiet but very comfortable way.  He was a capital judge of horse, always had some of the best dogs in the Kingdom, & very fond of flowers & bees.  He was a great favourite of old Lady Grenville at Dropmore.’  (Thanks go to Michael Bayley 4x great grandson of Thomas Bayley for a copy of Wentworth Webster's letter.)

In 1825 John was executor of the will of Joseph Millington of Burnham along with William Bayley, farmer of Britwell, both of whom benefited from the will.  Also mentioned as a beneficiary of Joseph’s will was Elizabeth Winder, wife of Edmund Winder [wi.4] the younger of Burnham who received £5. (Edmund was executor of John Edgson’s will in 1814)

In Pigot’s directory of 1830-31 of Buckinghamshire John was recorded as a corn dealer of Burnham.

John was recorded in Robson’s 1839 Directory of Bucks as a grass seedsman of Burnham.

In 1841 John was still working as a corn dealer at the age of 75 & living with wife Elizabeth & son William (20) at High St, Burnham. They had a female servant, Mary Nichols (15).

Again Wentworth Webster’s 1894 letter is illuminating as the following extract shows:

His (John Webster's) great village crony was Dr. Roberts, their houses were opposite but they never went into each other’s.  Every day they began chatting, each at his own gate across the street, involuntarily moving nearer until they button-holed each other and so continued until some engagement hurried one off. Grandfather always wore a full blue swallowtailed coat with large brass buttons, large buff waistcoat, buff breeches, stockings or gaiters and low shoes. He was quite bald but always wore a plain brown wig. A decidedly good-looking man and the dress suited him.’

Elizabeth died, aged 72, on June 18th, 1847 at Burnham, & was buried on June 25th, 1847 at Burnham.

John died on January 2nd, 1850, aged 86 & was buried January 8th, 1850 at Burnham, his age listed as 87 in the burial register.

John left a lengthy (7 pages) will written on September 20th, 1848. He nominated as his executors his 3 sons –Charles, Richard & William. It is clear from the will that John was a wealthy land owner. The major points of the will were as follows:
Mary Ann & William were to share the household furniture, beds, bed linen, china & glass.
Charles, Henry, & John Hearne were each to receive £300, Thomas & Mary Ann each to receive £500.
The executors were given £500 to invest in securities for the benefit of daughter Sophia, married to Robert Style, & likewise £500 for the benefit of daughter Maria, married to Thomas Johnson.
The remainder of his personal estate was divided into 9 parts & given to Charles, Henry, John Hearne, Richard, Thomas, William, Mary Ann & to the trustees to invest for Sophia & Maria.
As regards John’s remaining estate & property this was to be distributed as follows:

Also I give & devise unto my son Richard Webster (in addition to the advancements of money already made to him in my lifetime & to the bequests contained in this my will) all that piece or parcel of meadow or pasture land situated lying & being in Foulton Head in the parish of Cookham in the county of Berks now in the occupation of him my said son & containing by estimation one acre (be the same more or less) to hold the same to him my said son Richard Webster & his heirs & assigns for ever. Also I give & devise unto my said son William Webster (in addition to my old established business as a corn dealer with my stock & utensils in trade which I have already relinquished in his favour besides the advancements of money which I have made to him & the bequests contained in this my will) all that my messuage or tenement with the yard garden warehouse granaries stables & other erections & buildings & about 2 acres of land situated at Burnham aforesaid now in my own occupation & on part of which premises my said son William now carries on the said trade or business to hold the same unto him my said son William Webster his sons & assigns forever to & for his & their own proper use thereof & benefit upon condition that he my said son so & shall within 12 calendar months after my decease well & truly pay or caused to be paid unto my trustees hereinafter named the sum of seven hundred pounds of lawful money of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland present in England & of the trust fund hereinafter directed to be raised by them by the sale of the residue of my real estates. Also I give & divise unto my 3 sons Charles Webster Richard Webster & William Webster all the rest residue & remainder of my messuages lands tenements hereditaments & real estate at Cippenham in the parish of Burnham aforesaid or elsewhere which I shall be possessed of or interested in at the time of my decease including my said messuage or tenement & buildings lands hereditaments & premises at Burnham aforesaid now in my own occupation in case my said son William shall refuse or neglect to pay the said sum of seven hundred pounds to my trustees within the period hereinsofar prescribed for that purpose..

John wrote detailed instructions to his trustees to be followed if the lands were sold. The will was proved in London on January 30th, 1850 & admon granted to Charles, Richard & William Webster.  The Windsor & Eton Express of July 27th, 1850 carried a notice of sale of properties by John’s executors.  Among the properties for sale were an old established bakers shop with an adjoining double fronted grocers shop & dwelling, a beer shop named the Kings Head & 2 market gardens of 4 acres at Cippenham Green.  The estates were all freehold & tenanted producing a rental of £130 per year.

The known children of John Webster & Elizabeth Compton Hearne were:

we.5. Elizabeth Feesey Webster born July 4th, 1803 at Burnham; died September 12th, 1817
we.6. Mary Ann Webster born September 18th, 1804 at Burnham; died December 23rd, 1891 at 9 Somerset Place, Devonport, Devon
we.7. John Hearne Webster born December 12th, 1805 & christened February 2nd, 1806 at Burnham; died October 25th 1882 at Prospect St, Reading
we.8. Sophia Webster born May 10th, 1807 at Burnham, died April-June 1868 at Henley, Oxon
we.9. Richard Webster born June 30th & christened September 17th, 1809 at Burnham; died September 23rd, 1894 at Taplow
we.10. Thomas Webster christened April 7th, 1811 at Burnham; died February 1st, 1896 at Benalla, Blackwater Rd, Eastbourne
we.11. Maria Webster christened January 24th, 1813 at Burnham, died December 28th, 1872
we.12. William Webster born January 11th & christened February 23rd, 1817 at Burnham; died March 15th, 1904 at Burnham


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