Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1880 & 89

Ralph Dyer Webb (Killed at work) (1843 - 1888)

Ralph Dyer Webb was a Warder at Strangeways prison when he was attacked and killed by a prisoner in 1888.


He was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1843. He became a prison warder at Strangeways Prison, Manchester and married Grace Barlow in 1880. She was the daughter of Edward and Martha Barlow and was born on 14th November 1847 in Manchester. The wedding was at St Alban's Church, Cheetwood, in north Manchester. He was 37 and she was 32 years old and they lived at 11 Albert Street, Broughton.


The tragic event happened on 22nd May 1888. A prisoner named John Jackson had been detailed to repair a leak in the roof of the prison Matron Miss Elizabeth Little, and Ralph was to keep an eye on him. The house was within the prison and adjoining the exterior wall. Jackson hatched a cunning plan to escape by making a hole in the roof from within, climbing out onto the roof and then climbing over the prison wall. In order gain more time, Jackson planned to stun Ralph with a blow to the head with a hammer. However the blow was too heavy and it killed Ralph outright.


According to the Salford Reporter of 16th June 1888, Jackson made a successful getaway and managed to reach Oldham the same night. He headed across the Pennines, took the alias Thomas Harrison and lived on Bradford Moor, drinking with companions. It was following a fight, where Jackson had struck and injured one of his new companions that the police were called and Jackson was arrested. He was taken to the police station at Bradford, where about seven hours later a detective noticed a resemblance to the Stangeways murderer. Jackson was stripped and identifying marks confirmed he was the wanted man.


The funeral of Ralph Dyer Webb took place on Saturday morning 26th May. The Chief Constable of Salford was determined that there would not be a repetition of the unruly crowds that thronged to witness the funeral of Samuel Hill Derby (the Salford Poisoner), that had occurred just 3 months before. So he placed Superintendent Lythgoe and a number of officers to control the expected crowd. As it happened, his fears did not materialise.


The funeral procession of hearse and three mourning coaches left Ralph's residence in Cotham Street, Strangeways soon after 10 am. On the route to Weaste Cemetery many expressions of sympathy with the bereaved widow and six year old daughter were shown. At the cemetery, Ralph's colleagues bore his coffin into the Dissenters Chapel where the service was conducted by Reverend Edwin Walker, Dissenters Chaplain and Minister of Pendleton Congregational Church. Amongst the mourners were Major Preston (Governor of Strangeways Prison), Miss Elizabeth Little (Matron), Rev J. Dreaper (prison chaplain) and several other prison officers. Ralph was interred in Plot 34 of the Dissenters portion. He was 45 years old. His widow Grace was to live another 38 years and died on 5th March 1926 aged 79 years.