The Leadbeater family was Norman French in origin, with the name Le Bâtre (the builder), later Anglicized to Leadbeater. The senior branch of the family settled in Northumberland, England; whence a junior branch established itself in Ireland. Some facts about this junior branch are given in the two volume of The Leadbeater Papers. The senior branch followed the fortunes of Prince Charles Stuart and became Jacobite; from that day on—though they later became loyal subjects of the British Crown—it was the custom of the family to christen the eldest son Charles.
Charles Webster Leadbeater was born on the 17th of February 1847. During his childhood, he and his younger brother traveled to Brazil, where their father supervised the construction of a railroad. His father, during his stay, contracted a tropical disease and the boy died just before the family returned to England, and his brother died accidentally.
Charles W. Leadbeater’s father died while his only surviving son was a teenager. The family was well-to-do, but a few years later, they lost all in the collapse of a great bank. This necessitated the young man going to work as early as possible. For a while he was a clerk in the well-known bank of William Deacons & Co., but the work was naturally cramping and uncongenial. (…)
The young Leadbeater was a very active minister. He opened several local branches of clubs and societies associated with the Church of England: first a local study clubs for boys, later the Union Jack Field Club, then the Church Society, and finally The Juvenile Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society in March 1884. Astronomy was a favorite hobby of Leadbeater at the time, and owned a 12″ reflector telescope.
During an eclipse of the moon, he saw a shadow that was noticeable before the eclipse fairly started, and wrote some paper as to this, and it was found to be, in all probability, the shadow cast by the Andes. At one point of time, Charles Leadbeater used to go to a good few spiritualistic séances in London and met William Eglinton, a famous spiritualistic medium and reported some of his experiences with this medium. He also organized meetings in his own cottage.
It is through Spiritualism and psychic phenomena that Leadbeater came to discover Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society after reading the book The Occult World by A. P. Sinnett. He joined the Theosophical Society on November 21, 1883 at the same time as Prof. William Crookes, an eminent scientist, and his wife.
—From: Biographical Notes, by Maurice H. Warnon