Skip to main content

Webb, Matthew, 1848 - 1883



  • Existence: 19 January 1848 - 24 July 1883


Captain Matthew Webb was born in 1848 in Shropshire, England. Matthew Webb became an international celebrity after swimming the English Channel without the use of artificial aids in 1875.

Matthew learnt to swim in the River Severn when he was a child. At twelve years old, he joined the HMS Conway, where he spent two years training and then joined the Rathbone Brothers of Liverpool where he served a three year apprenticeship with the merchant navy.

Whilst serving on the Cunard Line ship Russia travelling from New York to Liverpool, Matthew attempted to rescue a man overboard in the mid-Atlantic. Although his efforts failed, he was hailed a hero and awarded £100 and the first Stanhope Medal for his courage.

In 1873 the news of the failed attempt of J.B. Johnson to swim the English Channel reached Matthew and inspired him attempt this record. Matthew, who by then was the Captain of the steamship Emerald, left his job to focus on his training. He made two attempts to swim across the channel, first on 12 August 1875, which he failed and second one on 24 August 1875, which he achieved. His success gained him celebrity and was followed by a professional career as a swimmer and stunt performer, which will last until 24 July 1883 when he died attempting to swim the Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River below Niagara Falls.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Bill Barnes Collection

Reference code: NFA0172
Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.

Dates: 1881 - 2017

Maplesone Brothers' Great Panorama of America and Canada Programme, c1883

Reference code: 178K53.6
Scope and Contents Pavilion Gravesend, week commencing Monday 25 February. 100 magnificent scenes, The Niagara Falls, rapids and whirlpool, The scene of the late Captain Webb's fatal swim, Miss Nellie Goddard, sigingin act, Mr Reuben Maplesone singing act. Black type on yellow background with illustration of eagle and shield on top centre and a decorative border containing scenes in the corners and other illustrations along the bottom and top edges on the front cover, inside introduction to the American...
Dates: c1883

Poole's New Mastodon Diorama Programme, 26 November 1883

Reference code: 178K53.20
Scope and Contents Athenaeum Hall, West Hartlepool, Illustrating a grand tour all over the world, visiting Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia and New Zealand showing the manners, customs, sports and pastimes, Grand myriorama of modern events, including the war in Egypt, the bombardment of Alexandria, grand charges at Kassassin and Tel-El-Kebir, The Strand and Temple Bar, Saint Thomas's Hospital and Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, The thames, Liverpool from the Mersey, Voyage to America, New...
Dates: 26 November 1883

Programmes , 1881 - 2016

Reference code: 178K53
Scope and Contents

Pre-Film and variety and music hall programmes mainly related to the travelling shows of Joseph Poole and Harry Poole, Harry H. Hamilton, Mapleston Brothers and Adams but it also includes other showmen.

Dates: 1881 - 2016