Captain Matthew Webb (19 January 1848 – 24 July 1883) was the first recorded person to swim the English Channel without the use of artificial aids. On 25 August 1875 he swam from Dover to Calais in less than 22 hours.
He was born at Dawley in Shropshire, one of twelve children of a Coalbrookdale doctor. He joined the merchant navy and served a three-year apprenticeship with Rathbone Brothers of Liverpool.
Whilst serving as second mate on the Cunard Line ship Russia, travelling from New York to Liverpool, he attempted to rescue a man overboard by diving into the sea in the mid-Atlantic. The man was never found, but Webb's daring won him an award of £100 and the Stanhope Medal, and made him a hero of the British press.