Geraldine Margaret Lewis (nee)
Louise Josephine Webb
Richard Jeffrey Webb
Mrs Joan Webb
Who kindly answered the following
questions and allowed them for inclusion in this website
Rita Webb was Louise, Richard and Geraldine's
Aunt. Rita's brother, the actor Henry Webb was their Father and they all
now live in Australia along with their mother (Henry's widow) Joan.
Q1.Richard, did Rita and Henry's father re-marry after
their mother died?
A. Yes, he did re-marry after Rose died
but Auntie and Dad were apparently cruelly treated by his wife and neither
of them ever wanted anything to do with that side of the family. They
both left that home as soon as they could and my father ended up living
with Gus's mother whilst Auntie looked after herself from a young age.
Auntie and Dad differed on the qualities of Gus. To Auntie he was always
"My Darling Dadda"
hated getting late birthday cards. She always said "I'd rather have
it a week early than a day late."
Q2. Geraldine, were Rita and Henry aware of their Brothers' existence?
A. I have a photo of Auntie with her twin
brothers circa 1906, when she would have been about 2. So Yes, we did
know about the Durlacher twins. Dad and Auntie tried to find the twins
once, years and years ago but had no success. Now we know why. So we had
no idea that Gordon's son was in Australia and were really excited when
he tracked down Louise and introduced himself.
Rita only ever
used Morny's lily of The valley soap
Q3.Geraldine, how did your Father lose his arm?
A. Dad was very young. No-one is sure
now how young he was, but Mum believes he was in his late teens or 20
at the most. Dad had a cut on his arm that got infected and was painful
(It was his left arm and, luckily he was right-handed). He was working
at that time as a builder and he went to the Dr as his arm was so sore.
The doctor moved his arm up and down and Dad was apparently in excruciating
pain but the Dr just said, "So, what do you want? A few days off
work?". Dad tried to explain the pain he was in but being young he
just went home with his certificate and later, collapsed. Auntie, not
having heard from him for 3 days, went round to his flat and it was she
who found him unconscious on the floor where he'd lain since the Dr's
visit. He was taken to hospital but by that time he had severe blood poisoning
(septicaemia). This was before antibiotics. He was extremely ill for months
and months and eventually his arm was amputated and a kidney was also
removed. He later developed pleurisy. He was in hospital for almost four
years (yes, years) in the end as he, not unnaturally, had a complete emotional
breakdown as well. When he was released from hospital, he went into acting
- but he still did the odd bit of building as well. By the time, I was
old enough to notice anything; Dad was completely adept with his one arm.
He could tie his own shoelaces, put up shelves, do anything, really, except
roll his right sleeve up! I never heard him say, "I wish I had 2
arms" - not once - and he never spoke about losing his arm. It was
just a non-issue by the time I was born.
NO-ONE was ever allowed
in Rita's front room with shoes on, in case they wrecked the carpet
Q4.Joan, can you tell me how you and Henry met
A. I met Henry after having been
introduced to Rita by a friend. My friend and I were looking for accomodation,
and my first contact with Henry was through him renting us a room.
Rita's favourite actress
was Marilyn Monroe - Rita thought she was a brilliant, underrated actress
Q5.Louise, when did Rita become a Widow and did she Re-Marry?
A. Rita did not remarry after her marriage
to Stanley for a couple of reasons. Firstly because he only, in fact predeceased
her by about 8 years. She had no contact with him after she left him about
40 years previously and she only found out that he was dead when contacted
by a solicitor, as she was his legal next-of-kin. She thought he'd probably
died years before and was surprised to discover that he'd lived so long.
Stanley was such a non-event in her life. A brief affair that would have
gone unmentioned had she not actually bothered to marry him.
Rita was a complete
teetotaller and did not have a drink of alcohol in her whole life
Q6.Geraldine, did Jeffie know how old Rita was?
A. She was some years older than Jeffie
but he never knew how many years younger than her he was until she died.
She told him on her deathbed and said "no more secrets, now, Jeffie".
My father told me that - he said Jeffie was surprised (not that it made
any difference to him, of course). She always told Jeffie she'd marry
him when she was 80. She'd always laugh when she told him that but we
all thought she probably would. However, as she was 77 when she died,
we'll never know. We always knew her age of course but were never allowed
to mention it - not out of vanity but as Auntie said, "If people
find out how old I am, I'll never get any bleedin' work as they'll think
I'm gonna drop dead halfway through the show" (Great guffaws of laughter).
flowers were freesias
Q7. Louise What is known of Al Jeffery's Family?
A. Jeffie had no contact with any of his
family (if he had any living) that we know of, throughout his life with
Auntie and he regarded us as his only family. Rita and Jeffie did love
each other very much and it is true that he lost the will to live following
herb was tarragon
Q8.Richard, did you change your middle name in honour of Al Jeffery?
A. Yes, I
did change my name in honour of Jeffie. I hated my middle name but felt
that I should take a name within the family so that Dad wouldn't be too
hurt about it all and so I thought of Richard Jeffrey. I was very young
when I did it, only about 13 and although I never officially changed my
name, it's become my legal name by common usage over so many years, although
I have recently reverted to using my birth name 'Richard Philip Henry
Webb' but I still sign my name R J Webb as before.
Rita could not eat if
there was a cat in the room
Q9. Geraldine, Henry and Rita were very close, tell me a bit about
A. Dad always called Auntie "Bunty" - Always. I don't think
anyone else did. Mum did occasionally but I think she was just "Bunty"
to him and "Podge" to Jeffie.
She rang my father EVERY evening at about midnight until she died. She
never missed a night.
My Dad read a lot and one day he was scolding her for not reading books.
"I do read books" says Auntie. "Not proper books"
says Dad. "Waddya mean, not proper books - what do you call a proper
book?" "Well, " says Dad, "Things like economics".
Auntie's voice rises and she yells, "Economics, Ecofuckingomics,
I know all there is to know about ecofuckingomics - if you haven't got
it, you've got to get it and if you've got, you've got to bleedin' hang
on to it." Auntie liked to read murder mysteries and Jeffie went
to the library for her every week or so to choose books for her. A real
labour of love, especially if he chose the wrong ones.
She was such a character. She loved my dad so much and she was so proud
of being 'a Webb'. Growing up I thought that 'a Webb' was almost something
important, the way auntie talked about it. She'd say (often) "me
and my brother know everything in the world between us - what I don't
know he knows and vice versa" so, as kids, we'd always reply with
something like 'ok, auntie, what's the capital of Mongolia'. She'd start
laughing and say, "how the fuck would I know, that's one for your
father." she did swear a lot - all the time. When we were little,
I was a bit of a rascal and auntie was carrying on about something
- swearing of course - and my dad said "Bunty, not in front of the
kids" which immediately alerted me to the fact that something untoward
had been said so I started chanting
"Auntie said fucking, auntie said fucking". Quick as a flash,
auntie said. "No I didn't. I said fooking, that's near Peking in
China." with a wicked look on her face. My dad looked exasperated
but auntie was who she was and few people knew that better than him.
Did you know?
Rita's favourite song
was - Sparrows can't sing
Q10 Richard, were you all close to Rita when growing
A. Dad and Auntie were very close and
as she had no children, we were an important part of her life and she
was an important part of ours, we saw her regularly and she also spent
every Christmas Eve and New Years Eve with us. She bought us "luxuries"
that our parents couldn't afford - mainly nice clothes but also bikes
and things like that.
At Christmas. She bought our stuffing for the turkey - she made a beautiful
chestnut stuffing. Mum always made a HUGE pile of jam tarts for Jeffie.
He'd eat tons of them and take the rest home - he loved mum's jam tarts.
And auntie always insisted that mum and dad gave her the same thing every
year - now this is bizarre, it was dusters, scourers, tea towels, dishcloths
etc. all were individually wrapped and put in a big box with wrapping
paper all over it. Auntie would then sit down and we'd all watch her unwrap
every one of them, exclaiming -"now this a bleeding good scourer,
these will last the year out." etc. auntie never bought a tea towel,
duster etc because our present lasted her the year.
Auntie also used to give me, Lou and Gel a half-a-crown if we held our
knife and fork properly. This was a lot of money to a young Child in those
days and explains why we'd often run to the cutlery drawer to get out
the knives and forks and show her how well we held them. Auntie always
thought our blatant cries of, "Look at me, Auntie, I'm holding mine
properly aren't I?" were hilarious - but she always paid up!
Rita loved going off
in the campervan with Jeffie for their two-week annual holiday in Cornwall
Q11.Richard, as children did you all go out for the day with Rita and
A. Yes, we had lots of day trips with
Auntie and Jeffie. She took us to Datchet
A lot which she loved and to the seaside.
Rita's favourite shop
was John Lewis
Q12.Geraldine, what was it like having a famous Aunt?
A. To be frank, I didn't take that sort
of interest in her because she was just Auntie to me. Although, I do remember
that you'd go out with her and as you were walking down the street, every
other person (literally) would say "Hallo, Rita." as they passed
and she'd smile and say "Hallo" back. When I was very young
and out walking with her for the first time, I thought it was strange
that she didn't stop and chat to the "friend" she'd just seen,
so I said, "Who was that, Auntie?". "How the fuck would
I know?" came the reply. Of course, I quickly realised that everyone
seemed to know her and, to be honest, It always made me feel very important
to be seen walking with her.
Did you know?
Rita's favourite item
of jewellery was a gold charm bracelet
(Jeffie bought her a new charm on every special occasion and Rita always
wore it unless she was working)
Q13.Louise, what was Rita's accent really like?
A. Auntie really spoke more or less as
she did onscreen except not so raucous unless she was getting angry or
making a point. She was more cockney than dad. Dad was self-educated,
well read and spoke with a London accent. It wasn't as cockney as auntie's
but nor was it plum-in-your mouth either.
gem was her birthstone, amethyst
Q14. Geraldine, what was Henry and Rita's childhood like?
A. Dad and Auntie had a very poor childhood
and it revealed itself in small ways. At one party we had, auntie thought
a friend of Louise's was eating too much of the ham off the bone. When
he went in the other room, she turned to me and Lou and said 'quick, that
fucker's gone, now hide the ham.' We stood there stunned whilst auntie
proceeded to wrap up the ham and hide it at the back of the fridge. After
we got over the shock, we couldn't stop laughing and "hide the ham"
entered the family vocabulary. Lou and I still say it to each other when
we're at functions and someone is having a good tuck in. auntie wasn't
mean though, far from it, but these small idiosyncrasies of hers revealed
her upbringing and her early periods of going without. We all loved her.
Rita's favourite part
of London was where she lived - Bayswater and the Portobello Road
Q15.Louise, are their any actor's you can think of that had a close
friendship with Rita?
A. Auntie did not have a lot of close
friends in the theatrical world, as she wasn't one for the Actors party
Scene. She just loved being on her own with Jeffie. She did have a close
friend in Arthur Mullard , She also knew Barbara Windsor and Warren Mitchell
quite well and Auntie was very close friends with both Diana Dors and
Rita's favourite item
of clothing was her Kaftan
Q16. Geraldine, what other memories do you have of Rita
A. Auntie slept in a big double bed with
RW painted in gold on the bed head. One night, when I was about 10 I stayed
with her, She went to put me in the big bed and I said "There won't
be room when you and Jeffie get in the bed".
"He doesn't sleep in here," she said "he sleeps over there."
pointing to a single bed against the opposite wall, its headboard facing
hers - "I only let him in here on birthdays and at Christmas, these
days" she said (more guffaws of laughter).
One night she was on the phone to someone posh that she was trying to
impress. I could only hear her part of the conversation:
"Oooh, how dreadful" - (in posh, Edith Evans voice)
"You don't say"
"Oh, he didn't".......and finally
"Well, fuck me" - in really posh voice
When she got off I said "Auntie you said, "fuck me" to
them." "I didn't did I?" she says "You did Auntie"
I said and repeated all I'd heard. She thought about it for a moment and
then we all erupted into gales of laughter. She didn't care about rules
or social convention. It was all meaningless to her. She cared about Jeffie
and Dad and us. People not things or rules were what really attered to
Geraldine's thoughts on Rita's outfit
at her wedding
The dress Auntie chose was "............it's
premodidantly green, Gel, what do you think?" Thereafter, I thought
of lots of things as being "premodidantly" something!!!
Geraldine at her wedding in 1978 with her Auntie
Q17.Geraldine, what did Rita think of you going to Australia?
A. Auntie never said much about my coming
here, she liked Steve and knew it was what I wanted but she didn't think
much of Oz, even though she'd never been here. She thought I'd probably
not like it here and would go back home. It was dad that didn't want me
to come. He said "can't you wait until I die?" and I said "no,
dad, because if I do that I'll be hanging round waiting for you to die
and I don't want it to be like that." I remember it all very clearly.
I think. In retrospect, they'd have both preferred for me to marry an
Englishman but they never said so nor did they ever make me or Steve feel
uncomfortable about our choice. Later, of course, everyone come out and
dad liked the weather but obviously missed some things about England.
"Podge" and "Jeffy" relax at home in
Did you know?
Rita's favourite time
of day was the evening, after a good dinner,
sitting in the front room with Jeffie on their his and hers recliner armchairs
Q18. Geraldine, when was the last time you saw your Auntie?
A. I have the last birthday card she sent
me - it was in May 1981. I'd seen her when I went home to England in January
of that year to show off my newborn daughter, Hana, who was born in November
1980. I saw her a few times and I've got a lovely photo of her and Hana
together. Dad put on a party for me. Auntie sang and Jeffie played the
banjo as they always did at parties. I sensed Auntie was ill but she wouldn't
talk about it. When I left, I just sort of knew that I'd never see her
again. That's why I kept the birthday card - I knew it would be the last
and I certainly didn't keep anyone else's!
Did you know?
Rita's most treasured
possession was the photo of "My Darling Dadda"
Family photographs copyright of Geraldine Lewis
(Rita also cherished her platinum 'wedding ring' from Jeffie)
These images are the exclusive ownership of the copyright holders and
are strictly prohibited from being reproduced, copied or used by any individual
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