Chapter 4

The Birmingham Connection; 1820-1861

Chapter 2 described the lives of William Webb (son of William and Martha) and his wife Mary Bate who stayed in the Redditch / Beoley area. It also described Redditch in the first part of the 19th Century. This Chapter 4 concerns the family of Edward and Mary, the direct ancestors of the author of this history.

Of the daughters there is no useful data, but of the five sons Joseph (born 1801), James (born 1808) and Harvey (born 1811) moved to Birmingham, where all three became bridle cutters and harness makers. It is not known when the move took place, but their marriages indicate that the elder two brothers, Joseph and James, moved in the 1820s, presumably tempted by the expanding town and not wanting to become needlemakers. It may be that their mother Mary (nee Hubbard?) was originally from Birmingham, and so they might have had encouragement and information about job opportunities from her side of the family.

Joseph's family details are outlined in (Ref 1) see Family Trees F, G and H.

In the 1841 census we find these three brothers and their families, living in Birmingham in close proximity. Recently remarried Joseph is living in Darwin Street with his children - Alfred, already a bookbinder at aged 15, Edward Daniel aged 13, and eleven year old Ann. Further down the same road are Harvey, a bridle cutter, his wife Lydia, and their children George aged 4, Ellen aged 2 and four-month old James. (Ref 2). In adjoining Salop Street is James, also a bridle cutter, with his wife Elizabeth and daughters Eliza aged 11 (a domestic servant) and Ellen aged 8. His mother Mary, (wife of Edward), is living with them. She is "of independent means" since the death of Edward, and gives her age as 65 though she was actually 69. It is not uncommon for ages to be "rounded down" in the census of 1841. Mary died in Birmingham a few years later.

Ten years later, in the 1851 census, Joseph, now described as a harness maker, is living in the very heart of the city in Cannon Street with his second wife Catharine. (By this date Edward Daniel was a student at Richmond College, where he was studying to become a Wesleyan missionary). A few houses down the road, in the same street, is brother Harvey, (still a bridle cutter), with Lydia and their children, but James and his family have moved a short distance away to Mary Street in Balsall Heath, which is in the district of King's Norton. "Ellen" is now "Helen" and is a governess, and there are two more daughters, Clara 6 and Susannah, 4, and a son JB (no names given) aged one year.

After another 10 years, the census of 1861 still has Joseph and family at number 35 Cannon Street, while his brother Harvey is at number 27, (with his wife Lydia and son James, who followed him in his trade). There is no sign of brother James, but he and his wife turn up in the 1871 census at Heath Road in nearby Harborne, not far from their nephews Edward and Joseph (two of the sons of Charles and Emily of Redditch).

Harvey died of emphysema in 1865 at Salop Street, Deritend (the street where James had been living in 1841). He had chosen to be buried back in Beoley. Joseph died of heart disease in 1868 at an address in Orchard Terrace, Bristol Street, though whether that was his home hasn't been clarified. Both brothers were attended by the same physician, a William Houghton of nearby Brewery Street.
The brothers had witnessed great changes in Birmingham and their children were to see many more. Gradually the ties with Redditch were lost, and the branches of the Webb family went their separate ways.
By the time of the 1881 census the Birmingham families are dispersed, and we lose track of them except that Harvey's widow Lydia was a visitor at the house of a Richard Jones at Shirley Villa, Solihull. (Ref 3)

So three of the five brothers spent most of their lives in Birmingham. What of the other two, William and Charles?

William (born 1806, see Family Tree C) also had strong ties with Birmingham, and may have been staying with his brothers in his late teens. His first wife was an Elizabeth, possibly Elizabeth Long. If this is the case, they were married at St Philips early in 1828, with James acting as witness. William must then have moved back to Redditch, to Evesham Street, where their daughter Ellen was christened at the Congregational chapel in October of that year. If Elizabeth Long is the wrong "candidate" then perhaps William married another Elizabeth but at this chapel - the marriages records have not survived. Sadly both Ellen and Elizabeth died within a year of each other and William went back to Birmingham, at least for a short time. In 1832 he married Susannah Caroline Gardner; both stated that they were "of this parish" i.e. the parish of St Philips (which was later to become Birmingham Cathedral). William's brother Joseph was a witness. It seems that widowers did not wait too long after the death of one wife before embarking on a second or third marriage, even if there were no dependent children. Life was harsh and often short, so practicalities took precedence. Soon after his second marriage William returned to his home town of Redditch, and settled back in Evesham Street, where his children were later born, and where he was to establish the family business (see Chapter 8)

In the 1841 census William is found in Redditch with his wife Susannah and four children. His younger brother Charles, a needle finisher, was staying with them. (Ref 4). Charles was a widower at the time of the census, but remarried the following year.
Charles and his new wife Emily then settled in Redditch and had at least 8 children. See Family Tree H

So, of the five sons of Edward and Mary, two stayed in the Redditch area, and three made a new start in Birmingham. For an over-view of the growth and development of Victorian Birmingham, click on the link. For details of education in Victorian Birmingham (click here).

For details of life in Back-to-back houses see "Living Back-to-Back" by Chris Upton ISBN 1 86077 321 4.
The houses he mentions in Court 15, Inge Street, Birmingham have been restored by the Birminghm Conservation Trust and are open to the public.