Photograph of Marlene Smith and Fred Hammond, Webb Memorial

Photograph of Marlene Smith and Fred Hammond

Marlene Smith, who was the Webb celebration event organiser, and Fred Hammond, who was a Channel Swim trainer, standing by the Captain Webb Memorial. Image shows the memorial statue to Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel.

The inscription below the bust of Captain Webb reads: Capt. Matthew Webb Born Dawley 1848 Died Niagra 1883 Swam from Dover to Calais Aug 24-25 1875 Erected by Public Subscription 1910.

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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