Mrs R Webber
7 September 2018
‘An aged widow, residing by herself in Lapford, Mrs R. Webber is a marvel of ingenuity and industry. And the kindness of her heart knows no bounds. She has a way all her own to raise money for good causes and this picture represents one.’ Western Times, 1917.
Mrs Webber created beautifully dressed dolls for charity. She was one of thousands of people to raise money towards the war effort.As far as we can ascertain, Mrs Webber was born Mary Ann Tucker in Mariansleigh, Devon in 1853. She married Richard Webber in 1877 and together they went on to have eight daughters. Richard was listed as an inn keeper in the 1891 census; it was as the proprietor of the Town Arms Hotel in South Molton that he met his untimely death in 1910, aged 60.
After continuing to run the Hotel for at least another three years, we believe that Mary retired to Lapford, where in March 1917 she was featured in the Western Times for her sterling fundraising efforts towards various war funds. Mary came up with an ingenious system of raising money, by buying dolls and creating beautiful dresses for them. The following is extracted from the Western Times;
‘Wishing to help the Hospitality Fund, Mrs Webber wrote to the Mayoress of Exeter (Mrs J. Kirk G. Owen) and asked her to give the doll a name. The Mayoress readily responded and called the little one Una. Mrs Webber was delighted to receive so uncommon a name and at once set forth to give her friends and acquaintances the chance of guessing what it was, at a nominal charge of a penny each – the correct guesser, of course, to get the doll. That she must have walked miles and miles is shown by the fact that when she returned home after her last round she had 364 pennies – just £1 10s 4d. As luck would have it, nobody guessed the name which the Mayoress of Exeter had selected and the doll became Mrs Webber’s. The old lady took advantage of this to swell the amount raised and, taking the doll to the auction field, knocked it down to the highest bidder for 10s. Thus she was able, by sheer industry and perseverance, to send £2 0s 4d to the Hospitality Fund. The proceeds from [another] doll amounting to £1 4s 7d., were given to the Red Cross Fund. An example, like this one, of unselfish devotion is surely better than many precepts.’
Mrs Webber lived to the age of 91 and was buried with her husband in South Molton in 1944.
Western Times, 1917. Go Thou and Do Likewise. 2nd March. P7.D. Available from: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000265/19170302/059/0007 [Accessed on 14/12/2017]
Find My Past, 2017. 1881 England, Wales and Scotland Transcription [webpage] Available from: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=gbc%2f1881%2f0010193329 [Accessed on 14/12/2017]
Find My Past, 2017. 1891 England, Wales and Scotland Transcription [webpage] Available from: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=gbc%2f1891%2f0012517072 [Accessed on 14/12/2017]
Find My Past, 2017. England and Wales Deaths 1837-2007 Transcription [webpage] Available from: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1944%2f1%2faz%2f001191%2f068 [Accessed on 14/12/2017]
Find My Past, 2017. Devon Marriages Transcription [webpage] Available from: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=gbprs/dev2/mar/56516/2 [Accessed on 14/12/2017]
(1917) Mrs R Webber with Doll [original photograph] White Collection. 4110Z/1/1/3. Exeter: Devon Heritage Centre.
(n.d.) Mr and Mrs R Webber [original photograph] White Collection. 4110Z/1/1/4. Exeter: Devon Heritage Centre.