The Webbe family and New River Estate in Nevis

I was introduced to Ruth Hecht by Dr Madge Dresser at the University of Bristol who I’d contacted while looking into my slave owning ancestors. Ruth appeared in the Radio 4 Descendants podcast series I recommended and was prompt for the new Recommended category on this blog (helping both directly and indirectly with the resources for those researching slave owning ancestors contained in my post announcing it).

That was all hugely appreciated, but to top that she has produced the following report looking at the Webbe family ownership of the New River estates I had been looling into. It’s way more forensic than anything I have done, but as she explained it’s incredibly complicated and so she isn’t sure if it is completely correct for reasons explained below. But in answer to my Joshiah Webbe(s) and New River(s) Estates? post that asked whether their were two New River estates and two related Josiah Webbes , she says the answer to both of those questions is an emphatic ‘yes’!!

Webbe family tree which shows the ownership of two New River estates on Nevis
  • Green = ownership of New River plantation compensation claim 97
  • Purple = ownership of New River plantation compensation claim 98
  • Red outline = Stoney Hill ownership (1)
  • Purple outline = Stoney Hill ownership (2)
  • Bright pink = Gingerland owenership
  • Red text = successful compensation claim
  • Blue text – unsuccessful compensation claim

Note this tree only shows people connected to the New River plantation, not all the people in any particular family

I has also wondered if the Webbe family originally came from Cornwall. The only reference she found seems to be in the book ‘The Cornish in the Caribbean’ by Sue Appleby who writes about the Webbes, but this didn’t seem to give any references to where that information came from. What was shown is that the George Webbe who died in 1826 was living in Cornwall, but Ruth couldn’t find any other Cornish connections.

Ruth also picked up lots of information about the Webbe family along the way, some of which is interesting in relation to individual enslaved people and their stories.

I’ve attached her narrative below of what I think is the New River ownership and a large family tree. I hope you find it as interesting as I have and can’t thank Ruth enough for her contribution.

Introduction

I have tried to establish the ownership of the New River Estate(s) in Nevis, particularly in relation to the Webbe family.
I’ve used the names attributed to people as they appear on the LBS database.

My conclusion is that at some point the New River Estate which was originally one large estate established in the early 1720s and operated as a large-scale sugar plantation (1), came into the ownership of the Webbe family – two brothers George and Josiah or possibly their father (see below) – and that on the death of George Webbe (date not known – I refer to him as George Webbe 1) the plantation was split into two and from then on the land was owned by different branches of the family. (2,3)

My reasons for this are:

  • UCL’s database Legacies of British Slave Ownership has two very distinct timelines for two plantations on Nevis called New River which resulted in two separate claims when compensation awards were made in 1834. The earliest mention of the Webbe family in these ownership records shows Josiah Webbe ‘of New River’ (d.1763) as the owner of one (claim Nevis 98), the other (claim Nevis 97) was owned by George Webbe of Westbury On Trym (1717-1790) and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill (1720-1767) – Josiah of New River was the their uncle; their father was George Webbe 1. Contemporary maps and reconstructed maps made in 2021 show two distinct plantations called New River (one of which is named ‘Webbe’s New River’)
  • Although I have found no evidence that Josiah Webbe of New River and George Webbe 1 were brothers, I think this must be the case because of their ownership of the New River estates, and because of the crossover in family names – they were both having children at the same time in Nevis (4) and subsequent generations on both sides of the family frequently used the names George, Josiah, Mary, Elizabeth and Frances.

It’s possible that the original New River estate was sold to Josiah Webbe the Elder who I am assuming was George 1 and Josiah Webbe of New River’s father, although I don’t have any proof, and have found only one reference to Josiah Webbe the Elder which says that in July 1763, 5 months’ before Josiah Webbe of New River died, ‘he sold 4 parcels of land of 300 acres for £3000 formerly the estate of Josiah Webbe the Elder, Eq. deceased.’ (5)

I’ve followed the information in the LBS database, but this doesn’t quiet tally with the information about New River on the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery website which implies ownership of New River at different points in time by the Butler family, so the information below could be inaccurate.

Many of the extended Webbe family members mentioned below owned more than one plantation or other land with enslaved people on Nevis, notably Stoney Hill, Deodand, Bachelor’s Hall and Gingerland. Another piece of research would be to look at who owned which estates and how many enslaved people they owned in total.

Summary of Webbe family ownership of New River claim 98

  • From some time before 1763 – Josiah Webbe of New River
  • By 1765 – Walter Nisbett and William (of Nevis) Maynard – Josiah Webbe’s son in laws married to his daughters Mary and Frances Webbe
  • By 1792 – Josiah Maynard and brother Walter Maynard the Elder, and Walter Nisbett – the Maynard brothers were sons of William (of Nevis) Maynard; Walter Nisbett was the second husband of their sister/daughter, Ann Manyard
  • Frm 1804 or 1817 until 1834 – Walter Maynard the son of Walter Maynard the Elder

Summary of Webbe family ownership of New River claim 97

  • From some time before 1767 – George Webbe of Westbury On Trym and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill – brothers, sons of George Webbe 1 (the brother of Josiah Webbe of New River?). Given that George Webbe 1 left his sons plantations, it’s possible he might have been the first Webbe owner of New River
  • Between 1767 and 1781 – George Webbe of Westbury On Trym and George Senior of Nevis Webbe who was the nephew of George Webbe of Westbury On Trym and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill
  • 1781 – before 1790 George Webbe of Westbury on Trym
  • Before 1790 – Edward Huggins Snr.
  • Until 1834 – remained in the Huggins family

Both maps taken from Searching for the 17th Century on Nevis – The Survey and Excavation of Two Early Plantation Sites by Robert A. Philpott, Roger H. Leech and Elaine L. Morris (6)

Detail of ownership of New River claim 98

One of the earliest owners (possibly the first owner) was Thomas Butler (d. 1739) who originally had lived on Nevis, but by the time he made his will in 1739 he lived in Camberwell, Surrey. In his will all his plantations and slaves on Nevis were left to his three sons, John, James and Revd. Duke Butler. As well as the New River Estate he also owned the Grove Estate on Nevis, also inherited by his sons. (7,8)

In 1745 the Butler brothers sold or mortgaged an estate ‘probably New River’ to William Clarke of Camberwell (the son’s brother in law, married to their sister Henrietta Butler) and John Hooke of Portsmouth. (9)

At some time between 1745 and 1763 at least part of the estate (10) was sold to Josiah Webbe (d.1763) as there are several references to him as being ‘of New River’. (11) It’s possible that the estate was sold to Josiah Webbe the Elder who I am assuming was Josiah Webbe of New River’s father, although I don’t have any proof, and have found only one reference to Josiah Webbe the Elder which says that in July 1763, 5 months’ before Josiah Webbe of New River died, ‘he sold 4 parcels of land of 300 acres for £3000 formerly the estate of Josiah Webbe the Elder, Eq. deceased.’ (12)

By 1765 the estate was said to be ‘late of Josiah Webbe of New River esq. decd. and now of Walter Nisbett and William Maynard esqs.’ (13) These are Josiah Webbe’s son-in-laws. Walter Nisbett (1706-1765) married Mary Webbe (1723-1752) in 1743 and William Maynard (d.1785) married Frances Webb in 1737. (14) I assume that Josiah Webbe left the plantation either to his daughters or their husbands – I haven’t been able to find his will.

In 1767 Walter Manyard mortgaged the estate to William Blomberg (his son-in-law – the first husband of his daughter Ann) for £5000 and in 1775 borrowed a further £6000 from Ann, by then widowed. (15) Ann’s second husband was Walter Nisbett and Mary Webbe’s son – i.e. her cousin Walter Nisbett Jnr.

In 1784 and 1792 John Lane and Joseph Kirkpatrick were the mortgage holders. (16)

Information on the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery website it says that ‘by 1785 the one third share of the estate belonging to Rev. Duke Butler (1723-1780) (the minister of Okeford Fitzpaine in Dorset) had descended to his four children who then sold their share to Thomas Coxhead, a merchant from London.’ (17,18) It goes on to say that there is a deed from 1794 when William Earle, planter, conveyed the plantation to Thomas Butler [the son of John Butler merchant of London???] and located this New River plantation in the parish of St James; it was around 50 acres, bounded on the northeast with the sea, on the southwest by the land belonging to others. Their archaeological data indicates that the estate supported two slave villages, one dating from the mid-1700s to around 1780 and a second dating from the early 1780s through emancipation in 1834. (19)

There’s no more information that I can find on LBS on what happened to this portion of the estate – did it get renamed, or was it also called New River (in which case why isn’t there a third compensation claim)? To be honest I’m not clear about how this relates to the other two New River estates (claims 97 and 98). Note that the Butler and Maynard families are connected through marriage with the Pemberton family… Walter Maynard (1739-1804) married Frances Pemberton and John Butler (1748-1800) married her sister Elizabeth Pemberton. This John Butler was the brother of Rev. Duke Butler above. (20)

Back to New River (claim 98). By 1792 Josiah Maynard and brother Walter Maynard the Elder were the joint owners of the estate. (21) They were the sons of William Maynard and Frances Webbe and also owned Gingerland Estate on Nevis.

Until 1792 Sir Culling Smith (a London mortgagee of ‘slave-property’) held mortgages for £5000 and £6000 pledged to Walter Nisbet (1745-1797) ‘as additional security for £6500 lent by Culling Smith to Nisbet secured on the latter’s Mount Pleasant estate.’ Walter Nisbet managed several estates on Nevis. (22) He left his estates to his unnamed children with the remainder to his nephew Josiah Nisbet.

Walter Maynard Snr’s will, made in 1804, noted that he had expended ‘large sums on New River Estate, now belonging to Messrs. Lane, Son, & Fraser, under a promise … that he should become the purchaser, and … have contracted, or are about to contract, with … [his] son Walter Maynard for sale of such estate, he directs that should the sale be completed on terms in contemplation, son Walter shall have no share in the Gingerland Estate’. (23)

Walter Maynard must have completed the purchase as he’s listed as owning New River from 1817-1834 and he received the compensation for claim Nevis 98 as Owner in Fee in 1837 for 107 enslaved people – £1954 4s 3d. It is this Walter Maynard who shot John Huggins in a dual in 1822 (24) – the Manyards and Huggins were neighbours, and indeed, by this time the Huggins family owned another part of new River estate (see below). (25)

Detail of ownership of New River claim 97

The first owners of the New River estate which became the Nevis 97 claim are listed on LBS as George Webbe of Westbury On Trym (1717-1790) and Josiah Webbe of Stoney Hill (1720-1767) – the sons of George Webbe and his wife Elizabeth (dates unknown).

When Josiah of Stoney Hill died in 1767 he left his estates ‘owned both soley by himself and jointly with his brother George Webbe’ to his nephew George Webbe the younger, son of his deceased brother Joseph Webbe.’ (26) Confusingly LBS refers to this George Webbe as George Senior of Nevis Webbe, the name I’ll use. When George Webbe Senior of Nevis inherited he forced a division of the estates he’d inherited from his uncle. In 1779 Stoney Hill was split into two (and the named enslaved people were divided 79 to George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym and 88 to George Webbe Senior of Nevis), and in 1781 New River became George Webbe of Westbury upon Trym’s whilst George Webbe Senior of Nevis had the estate called Deodand. (27)

In 1781 this part of the New River estate was 243 acres. George Webbe of Westbury on Trym died in 1790 and left all his ‘plantations lands and negroes slaves stock and hereditments’ in Nevis to his son George Webbe of Mylor, Cornwall (28) who petitioned the Council on Nevis to release his estate because the executors of his father’s will ‘were all resident in England’ and renounced their role. The petition names Stoney Hill and another estate [RH can’t read name] which both comprised of stock – mules, asses, cows, a bull, heifers and calves; there is no mention of enslaved people or of New River in this petition. (29) As LBS only refers to George Webbe of Mylor, Cornwall as owning Bachelor’s Hall on Nevis and Stoney Hill on Nevis, and doesn’t refer to New River I infer that before George Webbe of Westbury on Trym died in 1790 that he sold New River to to Edward Huggins who is recorded on LBS as owning it in 1817 when a return was made for 173 enslaved people. (30)

The estate remained in the ownership of the Huggins family until the compensation was awarded for 178 Enslaved people of £2694 3s 6d to Charles Pinney, Edward Huggins, and Robert Edward Case.

Author: Ruth Hecht, January 2022

  1. Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DACCS) https://www.daacs.org/sites/new-river-village-i/#background accessed 18.1.22
  2. It seems that at some point the New River estate was split again as there is reference to a portion belonging to the Butler family in 1785 – ibid
  3. In George Webbe of Westbury On Trym’s will it refers to plantations he and his brother Josiah inherited from his father, George Webbe – LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146651849
  4. George and his wife Elizabeth had two children who died young (James buried in 1718 and Sarah buried in 1720); Josiah and his wife Anne also had two children who died young (George in 1717 and Josiah in 1718). George and Elizabeth went on to have 6 children (Frances b.1716, George b.1717, Josiah b.1720, Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth); Josiah had two children, Mary (b.1723) and Frances. Information from baptism and other records. Given both George and Josiah had daughters called Frances and Mary, it’s possible one of those was their mother’s name.
  5. 1763, July 30. Josiah Webbe of New River in the Parish of St. James, Nevis, Esq., for £3000 sells to Robt Cooper of Sarum, draper, 4 parcels of land, containing 300 acres formerly the estate of Josiah Webbe the Elder, Eq. deceased.’ Vere Oliver, More Monumental Inscriptions: Tombstones of the British West Indies p98
  6. See this link for paper from which the maps are taken
  7. Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DACCS) https://www.daacs.org/sites/new-river-village-i/#background accessed 18.1.22
  8. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146645717
  9. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146645717 Strangely although LBS mentions New River in the narrative, it’s not listed as an associated estate of Rev Duke Butler
  10. Some of the estate must have remained in the ownership of the Butler family, as their name appears in deeds later in the century
  11. For example sometime after 1760 ‘William Burt Weekes and his wife mortgaged the 110-acre property in St Thomas Lowland and St James Windward to George Webbe jr, Josiah Webbe of New River, Joseph Webbe of Stoney Hill and John Dasent.’ [Christine Eicklemann ‘The Mountravers Plantation Community’ p.1124 https://seis.bristol.ac.uk/~emceee/mountravers~part3chapter3.pdf accessed 18.1.22]
  12. 1763, July 30. Josiah Webbe of New River in the Parish of St. James, Nevis, Esq., for £3000 sells to Robt Cooper of Sarum, draper, 4 parcels of land, containing 300 acres formerly the estate of Josiah Webbe the Elder, Eq. deceased.’ [Vere Oliver More Monumental Inscriptions: Tombstones of the British West Indies p98]
  13. DAACS ibid
  14. liver’s History of Antigua states that “Mr John S. Maynard, M.D. Edinburgh, wrote me in 1896 that William Maynard of Nevis married Frances Webbe in 1737, and Webbe’s New River Estate is still held by his family.” Quoted from LBS – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/4813
  15. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146666765
  16. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estates/
  17. DAACS ibid
  18. http://www.stgitehistory.org.uk/media/churchwardens18cent.html
  19. Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, New River – https://www.daacs.org/plantations/new-river/
  20. There is another connection between the Butler Family and the Webbe family which relates to Bachelor’s Hall plantation and another plantation in St George, Nevis – see LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/3119 and https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146665441
  21. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/4813
  22. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146660931 https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146643697
  23. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146634528
  24. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/23790
  25. For a detailed description of the duel see Christina Eickelmann A Nevis ‘Legend’ Revisited: the Huggins-Maynard Duel of 1822’ https://seis.bristol.ac.uk/~emceee/hugginsmaynardduel.doc%5b1%5d.pdf
  26. Nevis Book of Wills 1763-1787 Folios 163-166 can be viewed online: https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP794-1-5-2 See also LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146651847 and V L Oliver More Monumental Inscriptions: Tombstones of the British West Indies p.45
  27. LBS https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146645553
  28. Will of George Webb
  29. Nevis Wills Book 1787-1805 Folio 123 https://eap.bl.uk/collection/EAP794-1-5/search
  30. When George Webbe of Mylor, Cornwall died in 1826 he left his estates to his son George Cavell Webbe (1799-1871) who claimed unsuccessfully for Stoney Hill, but who did receive compensation of £107 for 10 enslaved people on unnamed estates (this small number of enslaved people makes sense in relation to the stock listed in his father’s petition which appear to be small farms). https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146645559

2 thoughts on “The Webbe family and New River Estate in Nevis

  1. My cousin Hamish has been following up on the above by looking at what he could find on Ancestry.com, i.e. more on the dates, spousesm the first Webbem etc. And also perhaps to help towards acknowledging what was going on.

    At least three trees think the first of those Webbes was George Webbe, although they don’t seem to give and sources for his children except each other; so he is not really sure what to make of that.

    For now, Hamish has created a record for George Webbe Abt (1640 – 1698) on Ancestorium.com:

    https://ancestorium.com/tng/getperson.php?personID=I457&tree=1

    And you can see his Descendants here:

    https://ancestorium.com/tng/descendtext.php?personID=I457&tree=1&display=block&generations=12

    Those trees are:

    George Webbe 1640–1698

    BIRTH ABT 1640 • Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

    DEATH 1698 • Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England

    From

    Fields Family Tree KF Keegyn Fields

    https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/177746585/person/352312868544/facts

    Marriage

    2 Nov 1682 • Marlborough St Peter, Wiltshire, England

    Margaret Perth (1642–1703)

    +++++++++++++

    George Webbe 1640–1698

    BIRTH ABT 1640 • Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

    DEATH 1698 • Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England+

    From

    Bernadette Poole Family. Bernadette Poole

    https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/175240949/person/292306739557/facts

    Marriage

    1682 • St Peter and St Paul’S, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

    Margaret Perth (Webbe) (1642–1703)

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    George Webbe 1640–1698

    BIRTH ABT 1640 • Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

    DEATH 1698 • Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, England

    From

    Webbe Family of Nevis Tree. SE. Sue Evan-Wong

    https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/83492662/person/34484383395/facts

    Marriage

    2 Nov 1682 • St Peter and St Paul’s, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England

    Margaret Perth (1642–1703)

    Hamish has also added Captain Thomas (Butler?) (1635 – 1687) who is featured a lot in records pertaining to the estates, although as yet no direct Webbe connection:

    https://ancestorium.com/tng/getperson.php?personID=I520&tree=1

    Descendants:

    https://ancestorium.com/tng/descendtext.php?personID=I520&tree=1&display=block&generations=10

  2. I’ve heard back from Ruth Hecht who thinks that George and Josiah’s father being called George rather than Josiah (as she thought – see above) is plausible, and that Hamish’s findings seem to tally with her speculation about them being brothers. And also her hunch that Webbe family weren’t from Cornwall.

    She also found this information about a John Webb in Milton Lilbourne in Wiltshire (no ‘e’ in this article – but an ‘e’ in his burial record) – who she would assume was a relative of the George Webbe who was buried in Milton Lilbourne in 1754… as John Webbe was buried there in 1756… and it’s a pretty small place!

    That would be another possible path to follow-up on:

    https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol16/pp164-181

    Click to access Milton%20Lilbourne%20-%20Burials%201686-1837.pdf

    She agrees that trees not giving sources is always a worry – and also the way they often seem to copy each other – but she does think there seems to be a fair amount of detail about subsequent generations, as well there being some original sources.

    Ruth has also worked out the connection between the Butler family and the Maynards via Pemberton family (see chart in link below). And think there might well have been a connection in earlier generations to the Webbe family. Those in purple relate to the New River Estate – the connection she never quite got to the bottom of…

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