Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick William Webb (1837–1919)

by William E. Fox

This article was published:

Frederick William Webb (1837-1919), public servant, was born on 20 February 1837 in Sydney, son of John Webb, an Irish-born civil servant in the commissariat, and his wife Mary, née Bell. Educated at private schools, Frederick joined the public service as a sessional extra in the Legislative Council on 20 October 1851.

His first permanent appointment was in the Post Office where he worked in 1853-60; he was to draw upon this experience as a witness before the 1862 board of inquiry into the management of that department. On 19 April 1860 Webb obtained a position in the printing branch in the Legislative Assembly. He progressed steadily, promotion of staff being strictly by seniority. At St Thomas's Anglican Church, Willoughby, on 2 June 1866 Webb married Irish-born Charlotte Elizabeth Hickson; she died in childbirth next year. On 25 May 1872 he married Emily, youngest daughter of John Piper MacKenzie and granddaughter of Alexander McKenzie, at St James's Anglican Church, Sydney; they were to have four children.

Clerk assistant from 1 February 1873, Webb acted briefly as clerk of the Legislative Assembly in 1877 and in 1885, before being appointed to that position on 21 February 1888. He was responsible for the accuracy of records, the custody of all documents and control of the staff; he also had to be at hand to advise the Speaker and chairman of committees at any hour of the day or night. As clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Webb was appointed secretary to the National Australasian Convention held in Sydney in 1891; he acted as an adviser at the Australasian Federal Convention and was clerk to its finance committee in Adelaide in 1897.

Distinguished-looking, kindly, 'modest and efficient', Webb was praised for his 'valuable assistance' and 'unswerving loyalty', and came to be seen as 'inseparably associated' with the Legislative Assembly. He was held in 'affectionate esteem' by his staff. Appointed C.M.G. in 1894, he was elected a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1897. After twelve months sick-leave, he retired on a pension in January 1904 and had more time to go shooting and fishing. Survived by his wife, daughter and a son, he died at Manly on 17 July 1919 and was buried in the local cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £9749.

Select Bibliography

  • G. N. Hawker, The Parliament of New South Wales, 1856-1965 (Syd, 1971)
  • J. A. La Nauze, The Making of the Australian Constitution (Melb, 1972)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1903, pp 40, 56, 1904, 2nd S, p 33
  • Royal Society New South Wales, Journal, 54 (1920), p 35
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 1919
  • Carruthers correspondence (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes correspondence (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

William E. Fox, 'Webb, Frederick William (1837–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 February, 1837
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


17 July, 1919 (aged 82)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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