JOHN BENBOW, 1681 – 1708

By , March 6, 2010 12:56 pm

Brave Benbow contains a brief biography as well as the will of Admiral Benbow’s son John, who also served in the Royal Navy, and in the merchant service. He spent several years marooned on Madagascar before being rescued by a Dutch captain and returned to England. He died in 1708.

Callender and Britton err in stating that he died ‘in want’. (Admiral Benbow, Fact and Fiction, p.202). His will clearly shows he left an estate of at least 1700 pounds, distributed among his siblings and other relatives, including his younger brothers William and Richard, and his sisters Martha and Katherine. This suggests that, contrary to Callender and Britton, Richard still lived at the time of his brother’s death. (Brave Benbow, p. 186-7, 198)

However, Callender and Britton do add interesting information regarding his tombstone in Deptford Church:

“Unlike the inscription, the achievement of arms has unhappily suffered almost total eclipse from the tread of countless congregations during two centuries. Of ther Crest, the body and legs of the Harpy Close survive with wing and tail feathers; but the head and breast have disappeared, and with them the Arrow, if we may assume that it was once there. The shield has suffered even more severely and nothing now is visible on its surface except the tip of one end of the Dexter bow (correctly ‘endorsed’) with a morsel of the string attached to it. These fragmentary vestiges, however, justify the assumption that, when the achievement was newly carved, there was no departure from the Milton Alms Dish canon.” (Admiral Benbow, Fact and Fiction, p.142)

Significantly, the bows are ‘endorsed’ ie. string to string, as described by the College of Arms and as depicted on the Milton Alms dish.

John Benbow: Flagstone, St. Nicholas Church, Deptford

Here lyeth ye Body of John Benbow

Elder Son of Adm. John Benbow viz.

Admiral of Ye White By Martha His wife

He died November ye 17, 1708 In ye 27th

Year of His Age.


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