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Webb, Edmund (1830–1899)

by J. E. L. Rutherford

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Edmund Webb (1830-1899), storekeeper and politician, was born on 6 September 1830 at Liskeard, Cornwall, England, younger son of Thomas Webb, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Geake. Educated at Saltash, after his father's death he was advised to seek a better climate and with his mother and sisters reached Sydney in the Penyard Park on 13 September 1847. Refusing to be tied to an apprenticeship which would last beyond his majority, he found work with a draper at Bathurst; three years later, having saved £200 and being refused a partnership, he accepted a loan from a friend and opened his own business in November 1851. On 18 January 1854 at Springfield near Bathurst he married Selina Jane Jones (d.1929), daughter of William Tom.

After initial difficulties Webb prospered; he moved to larger premises in 1856 and to his own building in 1862, which he enlarged ten years later. In January 1866 he took William Ross as a partner under the style of Edmund Webb & Co. He retired from active business in 1880, leaving in charge his son Edmund Tom, and his nephew, son of his brother Thomas. Webb & Co. manufactured their own clothing, millinery and footwear, and supplied a large part of the west; in 1881 they started their own free, monthly newspaper, the Bathurst Post. Over the years Webb acquired much property in and around Bathurst.

A Freemason and a dedicated Wesleyan Methodist, he was a trustee of the local church, chaired Bathurst circuit meetings and was a member of the Australasian Wesleyan Methodist annual conferences in the 1860s. Webb was a generous benefactor, founder and councillor in 1879-97 of Newington College, and a councillor of the Methodist Ladies' College, Burwood, in 1890-97. Involved in town affairs, he was a founding member and later trustee of the Bathurst Mechanics' School of Arts in the mid-1850s; a member of the first Borough Council in 1863 and mayor in 1866, part of 1868 and in 1875-77; and a member of the buildings committee of the District Hospital 1876, and treasurer in 1882-93. He was also a magistrate, a vice-president of the Bathurst Agricultural, Horticultural and Pastoral Association, a commissioner for the Sydney International Exhibition (1879), and deputy-licensing magistrate in 1891. He was a great supporter of cricket and football.

An upholder of free selection before survey, Webb was very interested in politics and represented West Macquarie in the Legislative Assembly in 1869-74. Described by the Freeman's Journal on 8 November 1873 as a 'rabid Orangeman', he approved the appointment of Sir James Martin as chief justice in 1873, but told (Sir) Henry Parkes, 'I do not think you acted towards Mr Butler in a way in which you would like to be treated yourself'. Webb won a by-election for East Macquarie in February 1878 but resigned on 29 December 1881 when he was appointed to the Legislative Council. He opposed the Jennings government's fiscal policy in 1886 and Federation. He was a vice-president of the Free Trade Association of New South Wales when it was formed in 1885, and a committee-member after it was reconstituted as the Free Trade and Liberal Association of New South Wales in 1889, and a vice-president of the Local Option League when it was reformed in 1890.

In the 1860s Webb had built a fine home, Hathrop, on Vale Creek. Long a sufferer from bronchitis and asthma, he died suddenly of heart failure at Parkes on 24 June 1899, survived by his wife, two of his three sons and two daughters. He was buried in the Wesleyan section of Bathurst cemetery after a public funeral. His estate was valued for probate at £95,305.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Webb & Co., 1851-1937 and 1851-1951 (np, nd)
  • D. S. Macmillan, Newington College 1863-1963 (Syd, 1963)
  • Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church, Minutes of NSW and Qld conference (1875-1899)
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 30 May 1874
  • Sydney Mail, 1 July 1899
  • Bathurst Times and National Advocate (Bathurst) and Free Press and Mining Journal, 24, 26-28 June 1899
  • Western Times (Bathurst), 12, 16 Apr 1951
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. E. L. Rutherford, 'Webb, Edmund (1830–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/webb-edmund-4821/text8041, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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