WEBB, Beatrice, 1858-1943: Aldgate papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Record of the inhabitants of Katharine Buildings, Cartwright Street, Aldgate, London.

Administrative / Biographical History

Beatrice Webb, 1858-1943, was born Martha Beatrice Potter at Standish House near Gloucester, she was the eighth daughter of the railway and industrial magnate Richard Potter (1817-1892). Beatrice was educated privately and became a business associate of her father after her mother's death in 1882. She became interested in reform and began to do social work in London. In January 1885 Beatrice became a rent collector and manager for Katharine Buildings in the East End of London. She worked alongside Ella Pycroft, a physician's daughter from Devon. Pycroft had arrived in London in 1883 and spent 5 years working at Katharine Buildings. The property was owned by the East End Dwelling Company and situated in Aldgate. The tenants were casual labourers, dock-workers, porters, hawkers and coster-mongers. Beatrice's task was to collect rents and choose the tenants, replacing them if she felt it to be necessary.

Beatrice investigated working-class conditions as part of the survey 'Life and Labour of the People in London' (1891-1903), directed by her cousin Charles Booth (1840-1916). In 1892 she married Sidney Webb (1859-1947), later Baron Passfield, a member of the socialist Fabian Society. Sidney and Beatrice Webb served on many royal commissions and wrote widely on economic problems. In 1895 they founded the London School of Economics and Political Science. After a tour of the United States and the Dominions in 1898, they embarked on their massive ten-volume work, 'English Local Government' (1906-1929). Beatrice Webb also served on the Poor Law Commission (1906-1909) and was joint author of its minority report. During World War I Beatrice Webb was a member of the War Cabinet committee on women in industry (1918-1919) and served on the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee for women justices (1919-1920), being a justice of the peace herself from 1919 to 1927.

Sidney Webb became an MP in 1922 and held ministerial office in both the early Labour governments. In 1932, after he had left office, the Webbs visited the Soviet Union. They recorded their views in 'Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation' (1935). The Webbs retired to their home in Hampshire in 1928. Beatrice Webb produced two volumes of autobiography: 'My Apprenticeship' (1926) and 'Our Partnership' (1948), which was published after her death. Her publications include: 'The co-operative movement in Great Britain' (1891); 'The history of trade unionism' (1894) (co-author with Sidney Webb); 'The case for the Factory Acts' (1901); 'English Local Government' (1906) (co-author with Sidney Webb); 'The charter of the poor' (1909); 'The break-up of the Poor Law: being part one of the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission' (1909); 'The coming of a unified county medical service and how it will affect the voluntary hospital' (1910); 'Complete national provision for sickness: how to amend the insurance acts' (1912); 'The abolition of the Poor Law' (1918); 'Wages of men and women-should they be equal?' (1919); 'A constitution for the socialist commonwealth of Great Britain' (1920); 'Decay of capitalist civilisation' (1923) Co-author with Sidney Webb; 'My apprenticeship' (1926); 'Soviet Communism: a new civilisation' (1935); 'Our partnership' (1948).

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Archivist's Note

Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on May 8, 2002

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