Rita Webb Britain's Best Loved Character Actress
Left, Rita's cherished photograph of her Father
Rita Webb's Father, Henry Augustus Webb, known to all as "Gus" was born on Friday 2nd January 1880 at Tracey Villa, Iverson Road, Hampstead.
His father Henry Richard Webb was a Dentist and married Gus's Mother Rosa Jane Cane in Islington at the Parish Church on 28th April 1873 (Gus was 20 when his father died aged 53 on 30th March 1900 of chronic asthma and acute bronchitis.)
Gus and his brothers, Richard Lewis Webb (1882–1954) & George Robert Webb (1878–) went to St Mary's School and later transferred to Netherwood Street School on 3rd December 1891 whilst living at 31 Kenilworth Road. Gus also had two sisters, Mary Ann Margaret Elizabeth Webb (1874–1947) and Ethel Mina Webb (1885–1954)
Above, Gus and his brothers are listed in this 1891 Netherwood Street school register
A rare picture of The Webbs together circa 1894
Gus was a young man when he fought in the Boar war with his Brothers, Richard and George.
He was a Private in the 30th Battalion and spent 321 days in the army, 200 of which were spent abroad.
He was discharged on 8th January 1902 and his discharge was confirmed at Malmesbury, Cape Colony on 24th November 1902.
His height was listed as 5 '4" and his occupation was listed as a clerk.
Less than a year later Gus married Rose Jeannette Durlacher a divorcee who had seven year old twins Leslie & Gordon by a previous marriage.
Rose was pregnant with their first child by the time they married at Hendon registry office on 18th July 1903.
(Rose bore him a daughter Olive (Rita) in 1904 whilst they lived at 87 Hartland Road, Hendon
(Gus was listed on his two twin stepsons school register as father when they attended St Augustine´s School on 21st April 1904
Above, the Durlacher twins are listed on the 1904 St Augustine´s School register
Rita's Mother Rose Jeannette Webb
Two years later the family had moved to 12 William Street, North Leyton, where Rose gave birth to a son, Henry Richard.
The marriage it seems was a happy one, but the ill wind of fate would shatter what happiness the couple had two years after their second child was born.
In 1908 Rose died of cancer, Gus was 28 years old and left alone with four children to look after. The twins were sent to live with their grandma Julia Kyezor while Gus kept his own children Henry and Olive.
Four months after Rose's death Gus travelled to Australia with the merchant navy. He remarried three years later while the family lived at 36 Tavistock Crescent, Bayswater. The wedding took place on 7th September 1911 at St Michael's church in Pirbright, Surrey.
Gus in 1911 marrying for the second time to Gertrude Bolingborke
Gus's new bride was 30 year old Gertrude Bolingbroke (nick named Billy) a milliner and spinster who's father Alfred Bolingbroke was a sculptor. At this stage Gus is listed as being a steward. (It is not known where the family settled after the marriage, but they probably lived in London, possibly in Lambeth.)
The couple had three children, George Augustus Webb, born on 6th March 1912 at 41 St Luke’s Road, Paddington (He would have a certain amount of fame later in life playing the non-speaking role of Daddy in "Keeping Up Appearances" George died on 30th December 1998 and had one son, Michael)
The next child born to Gus and Gert was the ill fated Denis Alfred Webb on 21st September 1913, poor Denis died in tragic circumstances in 1918 when he was picking flowers for his mother he was run over by an army car, still clutching the flowers in his hand he fell under the wheels of the car witnessed by his Brother and sister (something they never got over)he died after surgery at 1am the next morning.
The final child born was Joan Webb on 11th August 1915 (she would marry three times and have one daughter Judith) Joan committed suicide in 1989 after years of ill health
Left, Gert with Dennis, Joan and George. Right, Gus with Joan, Gert & George
Gus (seated front row far right) at the 1913 wedding of Gert's sister Daisy
Gus was enlisted in the RAF on 2nd June 1915 and had his examination on 29th June 1915,
no disabilitys or allments were recorded.
At some point in service he was badly gassed and in 1916 he spent six weeks in hospital in Egypt and in 1918 he was sent home and spent two months in hospital.
By October 1918 he put in 22 claims for disability with Sciatica(the degree of disability was recorded as less than 20%) the RAF discharged him on 10th February 1919.
Left Gus's Pension record photograph taken on 28th October 1920
It’s been said that Gus was a heavy drinker who took his two step sons and his own son around the local pubs, making them wait outside for hours at a time forcing them to sell lantern wicks.
Henry Webb wasn’t keen on his father, but Olive (Rita) adored her father, whom she called “My Darling Dada” (there are family stories of Gus completely naked chasing after Gertrude down the street)
and at some point in their Marriage Gert and Gus parted ways (although they never divorced)
After Gus split with Gertrude he had several children with Minnie Louisa Gibbon nee Green (1881-1971), Her first child, Irene Dorothy Gibbon, was born outside of wedlock on 11th November 1905 at 10 West Road, East Ham. Irene was adopted by Walter Charles Hill and Ellen Hill (who would later have there own daughter Gracie Lillian Hill in 1910)
On the 9th May 1908 Minnie gave birth to her second daughter Vera May Gibbon (1908-1944) in Hampstead. Minnie married Frank Joseph Gibbon (1877-1963) at Willesden register office on 8th June 1913,while the couple lived at 36 Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn. Five months later at the same address on 10th November 1913 she gave birth to Bernard Gibbon (1913-1989) three years later on 2nd January 1917 another son Stanley Gibbon was born. And on 25th November 1918 George Gibbon was born.
Minnie with Vera circa 1910
Gus’s granddaughter Margaret Edmonds contacted me and had this to say, From what I can gather Henry lived in the top flat of a house in I think, Granville Road my grandmother and her children lived in the basement. They formed a relationship and rapidly had 3 children (Gus’s Mother Rosa Jane Webb also lived at this address)
Given the circumstances it’s easy to see how Minnie and Gus became involved with each other. And a surviving letter supplied by Margaret from Frank Gibbon explains it all in great detail;
again Margaret takes up the story "I found a copy of a letter , written by Frank Gibbon in 1961, trying to explain to his son Bernard how contact was lost with his mother. Bernard was Minnie's eldest son but seems to have left Granville Road around 1920 to be cared for by his father. At the age of 12 Frank sent him to Australia on one of the child migrant schemes and he did not return until 1980, he never saw his parents again"
Once Minnie moved in with Gus she took the surname Webb, Gus and Minnie would have three children together, the first was daughter Phyllis Joan, (02/05/1921) Harold soon followed (10/10/1922) and lastly Ena (1923) according to Margaret, Ena’s last memory of him is when he had moved down to the basement flat and spent most of his time lying on the settee
Quote from letter
You see my wife has never forgiven me for letting you go to Australia. In the first world war I was over seas for nearly 4 years. I came home in May 1919 to Granville Road in Kilburn. A large house let out to 3 or 4 tenants. Among these was a certain Gus Web who had been invalided out of the army after a dose of gas and had been living there with his mother for 2 years before I got home. Mr Gus Webb’s own wife lived in Woking, but 2 children were in Kilburn with their father. The boy was nicked named ‘Nigger’ and the girls name was Olive. The main thing is that here under the same roof were a man whose wife was living away and a man whose husband was far off over seas. Both normal human beings in their late thirties and both better suited to each other, I should say than their legal partners. For my part I just drifted along . As regards Gus Webb he was quite normal and agreeable in the ordinary way but there was an ingrained black streak in his nature that came to the surface whenever he has too much to drink. And it showed itself with a scene in the house and a fight outside with my eye blacked and a few bruises as a result.Thus the long simmering affair had boiled over.I left Granville Rd and rented a room in Chelsea. Mum and Gus Webb had moved to Granville Road soon after I moved to Chelsea.
Ena and Harold outside the family home
insert Phyllis in 1957
After Gus died Minnie lived on at 9 Granvile Road until 1933 (she reverted back to her married name Gibbon in 1929)from 1934 to 1937 she lived at 25 Oxford Road, Kilburn & from 1938 to 1956 49 High Road,Willesden (in 1939 she listed herself as a widow, although Frank Gibbon did not die until 7th July 1963)Minnie died in 1971 aged 89.
Minnie at Southend in 1945
So what did Rita make of her extended family? Once again Margaret fills in the gaps As a small child I loved to listen to stories about the family from my mother and grandmother and Rita Webb known to the family as Olive was often part of these tales. Rita was very fond of this second family and was very kind and financially supportive towards them. Mum has told me that she had a flat in Brighton and took her there for weekends. They were in Brighton and watched the R101 come down in France. It was on 4th October 1930 The family always referred to her as Olive but were immensely proud of her success All 3 siblings were invited and went to her memorial service.
Gus's mother Rosa died on 18th July 1924 at New End hospital at the age of 77. Two years later his daughter Rita married and six months after this event Gus was sent to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington where he died of heart failure on 21st August 1926. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Willesden cemetery.
Rita can be seen behind the bride, her half sister Joan's first marriage in 1935
Pictures copyright of Geraldine Lewis, Louise Webb, Judith Howard, Allan and Marg DaleThese images are the exclusive ownership of the copyright holders and are strictly prohibited from being reproduced, copied or used by any individual anywhere else other than this website.
Gus and pal in the Boar war
BIOGRAPHY: Henry Augustus Webb (1880-1926)