|Black sailor, detail from The Death Of Nelson by Daniel Maclise.|
However, the couple for whom he worked have been discussed in Margarette Lincoln’s Naval Wives and Mistresses, pp114-118.
In racialized London and the Medway towns John Webb’s endlessly contradictory tales about whether or not he had had sex with a naval captain’s wife – and how willingly – involved him in great trauma in the Ecclesiastical Court and Doctor’s Commons.
Born around 1767 his origin is unknown. In one of the courts he was referred to as 'the Ethiopian', for no clear reason.
|Black RN cook: RMG 127866|
Then, redundant in May 1783, Webb was found domestic work with Captain John Nicholson Inglefield (1748-1828), Commander of the guard ship Scipio at Chatham. (Pictured).
John Webb’s trouble
There was never a real resolution:
~ The alleged cuckolder John Webb said that he hadn’t done it, but also that Inglefield had told him to do it because he, Inglefield, wanted to watch through a spyhole. Webb claimed he hadn’t wanted Ann Inglefield’s advances, but he also boasted about what they’d done together, to another servant.
~ Ann said she’d never done anything. Her servants said so too. They swore that ‘the Black had always treated her with Respect’. There had been no ‘joking and laughing with the Black, and not any nodding and bidding him not be familiar with his Mistress.’ By contrast John Inglefield said he had proof. The servants saw their master as jealous, a blusterer and a bully.
~ John Inglefield claimed at one point he’d found Webb and Ann in bed, though most of the discussion mentioned only a kiss. He also referred to an anonymous tip-off letter, but it never appeared in court. It was proven he lied, and yet he was given custody of the children.
Pressures on every side
|Greenwich, where John Webb feared he |
might be trepanned by Inglewood
It’s not clear whether Ann forgave him.
The case collapsed because, among other reasons:
John Webb’s next steps are not known.
Other shipmates and servants did not shun him on racial grounds (or certainly that’s not recorded). In other words, he was integrated when among his peers.
|Black sailors were routinely included in shipboard life,|
as the personable John Webb would have been.
‘The arguments of counsel in the Ecclesiastical Court, in the cause of Inglefield: with the speech of Doctor Calvert, on the twenty-second of July, 1786, at giving judgement’, London, 1787.
‘Mrs. Inglefield's Justification, containing the proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Court ... 1785, taken in short hand by W. Blanchard; with a preface and notes by Mrs. A. I.’ J. Sewell, London, 1787.
(et al) including Webb’s testimony: ‘New annals of gallantry : containing, complete collection of all the genuine letters which have passed between Captain Inglefield, and Mrs. Inglefield ; Signed with their respective Names, relative to a Charge brought by the Former against the Latter, for Partiality to her Black Servant. To Which Are Added, The Black's Affidavits, pro and con, and Mrs. Inglefield's also, upon this extraordinary Business. Likewise, The Letters of Mr. Mills, Man-Midwife, of Greenwich, relative to his Conduct since the Suspicion of this Strange Connection.’ R Randall, London, 1787.
‘Captain Inglefield's Vindication of his conduct: or, a reply to ... “Mrs. Inglefield's Justification.” J. Murray, London, 1787.