Captain Matthew Webb

Captain Matthew Webb

Captain Matthew Webb. Postcard. Image shows a portrait of Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel from Dover to Calais unaided.

The caption reads: Portrait of the late Captain Matthew Webb. Born at Dawlish, Shropshire, 19th January 1848. Swam English Channel 24th August 1875, 40 miles, 21 3/4 hours. Height 5ft 8 1/2 in, weight 14 stone. Died at Niagra Rapids, July 24th 1883.

It is of interest to note that the accuracy of these details is questionable. For example, Webb’s obituary in ‘The Graphic’ of August 4 1883 gives contrary information, such as Webb’s birth date, 18th January 1848. Similarly Webb was actually born in the Shropshire town of Dawley.

Matthew Webb 1875: The first man to swim the Channel 24/8/1875. Dived in from the Admiralty Pier and landed near Calais after 21 hours 45 minutes. Had earlier failed in an attempt on 12/8/1875. Born at Dawley, Shrops. On 19/1/1848 he was killed attempting to swim Niagara Falls in 1883.

On his swim he was accompanied by the Dover lugger ‘Ann’ piloted by George Toms and crewed by Dodd, Bowles, Jell, Gates, Decent and Stanley. Also on board were Webb’s cousin G.H. Ward, Charles Baker the diver and pacemaker, and local journalists Bavington Jones, Warman, Payne and Wilkinson (also representing nationals) plus Bell, an artist for the Illustrated London News.

Webb was one of 12 children of Thomas and Sarah Webb. His father was a Doctor and the family moved to Coalbrookdale after Matthews’s birth. He served a 3 year apprenticeship as a seaman with Rathbone Bros. of Liverpool and became a national hero after diving into the sea mid-Atlantic to rescue a man overboard whilst second mate on Cunards ‘Russia’, travelling New York to Liverpool.

Married at London 27/4/1880 to Madelaine Kate Chaddock. Two children, Matthew jnr. and Helen.

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