William James Webster

31 January 1853 - 10 May 1928

William James Webster was born on 31 January 1853 at Bethnal Green, Hackney, Middlesex, England. His parents were William Webster and Harriet Alice Webster nee Leeder. William and Harriet married on 16 September 1852.

Death of Well Known East Londoner.


Former Chairman of Guardians.

The death of Mr. William James Webster, the head of an old established firm of East London manufacturers, severs an interesting link with a generation which has now almost passed away. His association with Bethnal Green went back to the days of Vestry government, and he was taking a prominent part in Poor Law administration before many of the present members of the Board of Guardians were born. A man of high character and unimpeachable integrity, he was respected by all who knew him, and he will be remembered as representing the best type of London citizenship.

An Early Marriage.
Mr. W.J. Webster was the chief of the well-known show-card advertising specialists, of 198, Bethnal Green-road, whose factories in Fuller-street and Busby-street employ over 500 hands. He came of a sound yeoman family, his father, who founded the business, being a native of Stony Strafford. The son gradually carved out a career in the industrial world, and made a great success of the business. He owned much to the encouragement and help of his wife, and he was as fortunate in his domestic happiness as in his business pursuits. Elizabeth Aburn, whom he married, was born on the same day and the year 1853, as was her husband. A native of Bethnal Green in its village days, they made a love match of it in their youth, and wedded whilst still in their teens, bringing up a family of nine, all of whom are still living, the five sons passing safely through the perils of the Great War.

Chairman of Guardians.
For a period of 19 years, Mr Webster was a member of the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians, serving on various committees, and showing a very real interest in all branches of Poor Law administration. For a long period he was Chairman of the Board, and was mainly instrumental in promoting the erection of the present hospital. His opinions were held in high esteem, and a striking instance of this was seen when the late Queen Alexandra was Princess of Wales,. The Lord Mayor was asked by her to undertake the distribution of the sum of £25,000, which had been sent to her for the poor of London. He, in turn, invited the co-operation and suggestions of the Chairmen of the Metropolitan Boards of Guardians, and Mr. Webster’s scheme was ultimately selected for adoption. A small balance remaining formed the nucleus of a Christmas Dinner Fund for Bethnal Green, and this became an annual distribution, which is still continued.

Abstainer and Methodist.
A strict teetotaller and non-smoker, Mr. Webster was also a staunch member of the Wesleyan Church. He had musical tastes, ands for fifteen years was choirmaster of the Approach-road Chapel, Victoria Park. His adherence to Methodism was continued when he went to reside at Woodford, and of the church there he remained a member for 31 years. He was always ready to help a good cause, and it was due to his instrumentality and generosity that the Wesleyan Church at Highams Park was built. One of his last acts was to subscribe towards the new organ there. His health has given rise to anxiety for some months, and an attack of sleepy sickness left him partly paralysed. The end came on Thursday in last week, when he passed quietly away, surrounded by many members of his family. Three of his daughters are in distant lands, one residing in the United States, one in Australia, and the third in Tasmania. Mrs. Webster herself has twice visited Australia. The first time was in 1869, when the voyage by sailing vessel took 104 days. Her second visit was by a modern liner in 1920.

The Funeral.
The funeral took place on Tuesday last, and after a service in the Church of Holy Innocents, High Beech, the body was laid to rest in the quiet little graveyard in the green loveliness of Epping Forest. The service was conducted by the Vicar, Rev. W.D. Jones, B.D., and Mr. J. Titt, presiding at the organ, played Dr. Fowle's "Funeral March." The Hymns were such as the late Mr. Webster had loved in his lifetime. The first was Stainer's setting to Charles Wesley's beautiful words, "Happy Soul, thy days are ended," and the second was "Abide with me" to Dr. Monk's familiar music. The service was brought to a close with Chopin's "Funeral March" and afterwards, as the body was borne to its last resting place, "O rest in the Lord" was played by the carillon of silver bells, an effort which was at once comforting and inspiring. Among those who gathered to see the interment, were 25 members of the staff of Mr. Webster’s firm, each with a quarter of a century's service.

The Mourners.
The Mourners were as follows:- Mr. and Mrs. W. Percy Webster (son and daughter-in-law); Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Aburn Webster (son and daughter-in-law); Mr. and Mrs. Sidney M Webster [son and daughter-in-law]; Mrs. C. T. Southwick (daughter); Mr. and Mrs. Wally W. Webster (son and daughter-in-law); Mr. and Mrs. Russell Webster (son and daughter–in-law); Mr. Geoffrey and Miss Sylvia Webster (grandchildren); 25 employees representing the staff and factories; Mr. Mustardiar (the chartered accountant of the firm); Mr. Brown (Solicitor); Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Sharpe; Mr. S.R. Hooper; Mr. Hedges.

Floral Tributes.
Flowers were sent by the following:- From Mamma (wife); Mab and Percy (eldest son); Ernest and Connie; Sidney and Bobby, and children (son); Lily (daughter); Walter and Phyllis (son); Russell and Elsie (son); May, U.S.A., Rosaline, Australia, Ethel, Tasmania (daughters); Geoffrey, Sylvia and Basil (grandchildren); Mary, Peter, Robert and Michael (grandchildren); Winsome, Warwick and Patricia (grandchildren); Ruth and Bruce (grandchildren in USA); John, David and Betty (grandchildren in Tasmania); Barbara and Deirdre (grand children in Australia); Cla… and Hilda (nephew); The Staff; Employees Gelating Department; Employees Moulding Department; Employees Framing Department; Mr. and Mrs. Mustardiar (chartered Accountant); Brown, Son and Var… (Solicitors); Members of the Wesleyan Church, Highams Park; Mr. and Mrs. Sharpe; Mrs. Brewer and El…; Dr. and Mrs. Kestevan and family; Mr. and Mrs. Hooper and family; Thomas Armstrong and daughter; Mrs. and Miss Smith; Mr. and Mrs. Young; Mr. and Mrs. Wright.

An article on the late Mr. W. Webster will be found among "Eastern Echoes".

Newspaper cutting.


The growth of the business of the late William James Webster, at Bethnal Green, referred to in the obituary notice in another column, almost reads like a romance. It was started by his father who, as a traveller for the British and Foreign Bible Society, sensed the demand for framed Texts, and started to supply it. So eager was the son to follow in his father’s footsteps that he ran away from Salnay College, a then famous school at Leyton, in order to insist upon being taken into the business. It was, however, no bed of roses upon which he entered, and when during the serious financial crisis of 1880 he had to face one of the most critical periods known to British Commerce, nothing but hard work, supplemented by promptness, courage and integrity averted disaster. Mr. W.J. Webster lived to see the business grow into a large and successful undertaking, the original text-framing establishment having developed into that of show-card advertising specialists and, as such, known to colour printers all over the world. He found time to take part in Poor Law work, and was for many years Chairman of the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians. He enjoyed remarkable health, and boasted that his expenditure on doctors’ bills, during a period of 35 years, was only £75, which he, himself, attributed to the fact that he was a staunch homeopath. Although Mr. Webster was a life-long abstainer, he married the daughter of Mr. James Aburn, an old retainer of the famous brewery firm of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. She was, for many years, President of the East London branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association. His death is the first loss the family has sustained there being nine children and twenty grandchildren all living. His kindness and vulnerable sympathy with the weaker man, and his help to others was always of the kind that looks for no reward or recognition.

Newspaper cutting.

One page in the series The Websters of Ashleigh