WEBBE, John (by 1516-56/57), of London and Faversham, Kent.
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Family and Education
Steward, Faversham by 1537, auditor 1540-4, jurat in 1555, mayor 1556-d.; j.p. Kent 1554-d.; commr. heretical books 1556, crown lands 1556.3
John Webbe was almost certainly the son of the John Webbe of Sandwich whose widow Joan married Thomas Wingfield, and thus probably a kinsman of Bennet Webb, mayor of Sandwich in 1488-9 and one of its Members in 1495. It is likely that George Webbe, who sat for Canterbury in March 1553, was another kinsman; the Mistress Webbe of Canterbury, widow, to whom John Webbe bequeathed the ring which she herself had sent him, was doubtless George Webbe’s wife, and the uncle and cousin, both named Henry Alday, who received articles of clothing belonged to a leading Canterbury family, one of them being the alderman who witnessed George Webbe’s will. The city also furnished the background to John Webbe’s long association with William Roper. The two may have been contemporaries at Oxford, where Roper is thought to have studied and a John Webbe took his BA in July 1514, and were almost certainly so at Lincoln’s Inn; although no record survives of his admission Webbe was probably the steward of the inn who in 1553 was allowed to have a clerk in commons at 20d. a week—perhaps one of the two clerks mentioned in Webbe’s will—and who in 1555 was given leave to exchange chambers with ‘Mr. Hale’, another name redolent of Canterbury. Roper was to recall in his life of Sir Thomas More that Webbe and Richard Heywood were present at More’s trial and reported the proceedings to him. For the next 20 years Webbe and Roper, whom in his will Webbe called his master, were to be associated in a variety of contexts, in feoffments of Roper’s manors, at Faversham where they were stewards in succession, with Webbe seemingly deputizing for Roper in 1552-3, and in branches of county administration. Another Kent figure with whom Webbe had much to do was Cyriak Petyt. It was with Petyt and another that in 1554 he arraigned certain rebels to whom Dover had given passive support; later in the same year the two purchased the remainder of a lease at Boughton under Blean formerly held by Sir James Hales, a transaction which gave rise to the famous lawsuit of Hales v. Petyt.4
Webbe owed his three returns for Dover to the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Sir Thomas Cheyne. At the first election Cheyne set aside the port’s choice of Thomas Portway and Thomas Colly in favour of Webbe and Joseph Beverley, clerk of Dover castle, with the result that the mayor and jurats had to indemnify the commonalty for this breach of electoral law. Although there was no repetition of this on the next two occasions, when Webbe was nominated by Cheyne and his fellow-Members seem to have been chosen by the port itself, the probability that on the first of them Webbe was also nominated for Rye may reflect some initial reluctance by Dover to accept him again. The warden’s support of Webbe, and Dover’s acquiescence in it, may have been influenced by his standing at Faversham, which as a ‘limb’ of the Cinque Ports had formerly claimed a share in the election of Members and which had seen another of its leading figures, Thomas Ardern, returned for Sandwich in 1547. An entry in the Dover accounts for July 1554 of the payment to Webbe of 40s., ‘in part of payment of his parliament wages which he received of the town of Faversham’, suggests that the port, having paid Webbe and Beverley a total of £13 for their attendance in the previous autumn, persuaded Faversham to meet some of the costs of Webbe’s Membership in the spring of 1554. Whether or by which town he was paid for his third Parliament does not appear, the Dover accounts for the year 1554-5 being lost. Of Webbe’s part in the proceedings of the Commons nothing is known save that he did not oppose the restoration of Catholicism in the first Marian Parliament or depart prematurely and without leave from the third.5
Having been passed over by Cheyne in 1555, Webbe was dead before Mary summoned her last Parliament. In his will of 28 Dec. 1556, which he made as a sick man, he left to his executors the choice of a burial place but asked that if it were in London the funeral should be attended by Father Peryn ‘and his company’, the members of the Dominican priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, that Prior Peryn should preach a sermon and that the community should celebrate a trental of masses; he also provided for commemorative masses at Faversham, with gifts to the poor. To his wife he left his goods and landed property, including his interest in Ospringe parsonage at Faversham, and the custody of their son Germain. The only child mentioned, Germain was the godson of Webbe’s ‘gossip’ Germain Cioll, who was to retain all Webbe’s money for delivery to the son when he became 25, taking £100 for himself and £50 for his son John Cioll. (Germain Cioll was at this time the owner of Crosby Place in St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, once the home of Sir Thomas More, and since Webbe left a gift to the curate of ‘St. Ellyns’ he was probably a neighbour of Cioll in that parish.) Among Webbe’s other provision for his relatives, friends and servants were gifts to the three executors, William Roper, William Rastell and Richard Heywood, and to the two overseers, Germain Cioll and Cyriak Petyt, and the disposition of his books, the religious ones going to Roper’s chaplains Mr. Wade and Mr. Wells, and the legal ones to Webbe’s two clerks Richard Best and John Ewer. The will was proved on 9 Mar. 1557.6