Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roots range from plumbers to peers, and both ends of the social spectrum can be explored using TheGenealogist’s breadth of records, as Andrew Chapman explains

Andrew Chapman, Editor of Discover Your Ancestors Periodical

Andrew Chapman

Editor of Discover Your Ancestors Periodical

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Figure 1: Andrew Lloyd Webber (©Wall to Wall)

The composer and supremo of musical theatre Andrew Lloyd Webber – knighted in 1992 and given a life peerage in 1997, making him Baron Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton & – clearly has music in his bones. His mother Jean Hermione Johnstone (1921–1993) was a piano teacher, who also played the violin; and his father William Southcombe Lloyd Webber (1914–1982) was a well-respected organist and composer, who studied under Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music, and later taught at the college himself. And of course Andrew’s younger brother Julian is one of Britain’s most well-known cellists, so music was fundamental in this family.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Figure 2: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical parents William and Jean

In his episode of Who Do You Think You Are? – the first of series 20, broadcast on 1 June 2023 – the composer is keen to find out the origins of this musical tendency. ‘The thing I would most like to discover,’ he says, ‘is where on earth my love of musical theatre came from.’

In fact, the immediate origin of the love of music is not hard to find, and lies with his working-class grandfather William Charles Henry Webber (‘Lloyd’ was a middle name that Andrew’s father incorporated into the surname because there was another William Webber at the Royal College of Music). It’s easy to look into this family using the records available at TheGenealogist. For example, the 1939 Register is a good starting point. It shows them living at 16 Grosvenor Gardens in Willesden, where young William S., aged 25, is already listed as a church organist and lecturer in the theory of music. His mother Mary is a domestic servant and William senior, 53, works in the ‘Relieving Office LCC’. That doesn’t give much away, perhaps, although a little background research soon clarifies that the LCC was London County Council, which existed from 1889 to 1965.

The composer’s father and grandparents in the 1939 Register
Figure 3: The composer’s father and grandparents in the 1939 Register

If we then look up William C. in the site’s 1911 census records, there he is in King’s Road, Chelsea and listed as a plumber – just like his 55-year-old father, another William Southcombe Webber, who was married to Alfreda née Simmonds Some digging in newspaper archives also reveals that William C. was a keen singer in church choirs and even sang at the coronation of George VI in 1937. And indeed his plumbing career wasn’t the only thing that involved pipes in his life: according to a Guardian interview with Julian Lloyd Webber, William C. was also a keen organ buff, which is what led to the younger William Southcombe taking up that instrument.

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Young William C. was born in Battersea, the census record shows, and in fact the WDYTYA show explores more of the Lloyd Webbers’ humble south London roots, and focuses on the pioneering work of Alfreda’s father Henry, who was a true working-class hero. Henry started out hoping to be an actor but ended up channelling his love of performing into a very different field. So far we have organ music and public performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roots, then, but in fact the show also pushes a line of Henry’s ancestry back to the 18th century and some remarkable discoveries which unveil some even deeper musical DNA – but no spoilers here, so do watch the show to find out!

Although Andrew’s paternal line hails immediately from working-class south London, it transpires that on his mother’s side there were some notably more illustrious names, appropriately enough for a composer now formally addressed as the Lord Lloyd-Webber. One name that comes up is Andrew’s great-great-great-uncle, General Sir Peregrine Maitland (1777–1854). The Concise Dictionary of National Biography at TheGenealogist gives us a round-up of his distinguished career, which included serving in both Flanders and Spain, and indeed he was a distinguished figure at the Battle of Waterloo.

A potted biography of Sir Peregrine Maitland
Figure 4: A potted biography of Sir Peregrine Maitland

The website’s Waterloo Roll Call record set confirms he was a major-general at the battle, at the head of the 1st Brigade of infantry, and even gives remarkable details which establish that he ‘had much to do with the victory then obtained over the French’. ‘Now Maitland, now’s your time,’ the Duke of Wellington told him – and you can read on at the site to learn more details.

Peregrine Maitland played a key role at Waterloo, as TheGenealogist reveals
Figure 5: Peregrine Maitland played a key role at Waterloo, as TheGenealogist reveals

Maitland turns out to be just one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s well-heeled ancestors among the nobility, and again you can easily use TheGenealogist to delve further into these distinguished connections, including the remarkable story of a Tudor duchess…

The wide range of records available at the site offers a perfect way to explore ancestry of all kinds, from the humblest to the grandest, as we’ve seen in the roots of a knighted composer who owes much of his love of music to a south London pipe-bender.

Andrew having afternoon tea with his dog, Mojito
Andrew having afternoon tea with his dog, Mojito

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