Bravebenbow Admiral John Benbow, biography, mutiny, script, screen play, art, documentary

February 26, 2010


Filed under: — W.A.Benbow @ 10:55 am

Please Note: Many of these images are held by the National Maritime Museum, London, and quality prints are available for purchase from the NMM website.

Admiral Benbow: scrimshaw on mammoth ivory by Tina White; after a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller in the NMM

Thomas Phillips, John Benbow and Sir Ralph Delaville, circa 1692

Thomas Phillips (c.1635-1693), John Benbow (1652-1702), and Sir Ralph Delavalle (c.1645-1707).

British school, about 1690

This may have been painted during actions against the French in 1692-93, when the three officers were closely associated. Phillips, on the left, was Second Engineer of England. He died on Benbow’s ship, the Norwich, following an enormous explosion during the bombardment of St Malo in 1693.

The Government Art Collection acquired a very similar painting in 1964, which has The Earl of Orford (Edward Russell) substitued for Phillips. They believe the artist to be Godfrey Kneller. Apparently, the artist copied his original, and substituted Orford for the deceased engineer. The original appears unfinished, with Phillips right hand empty compared with Orford’s which is holding a truncheon of office.

Earl of Orford, John Benbow, Sir Ralph Delaville

Earl of Orford substituted for Phillips; Government Art Collection: painted by Godfrey Kneller

Shropshire woodcut of Admiral Benbow

Secret Shropshire website

Admiral Benbow; National Maritime Museum: J. Chapman, engraver, 1 Apr 1797

Kneller sketch of Admiral Benbow

Kneller sketch for portrait of Admiral Benbow 1701; Historical Portraits, London,

Surviving drawings by Sir Godfrey Kneller are most frequently associated with portrait commissions. In terms of finish they cover a broad spectrum, from the briefest preparatory sketches to more closely worked modelli. The present drawing is an example of the more schematic treatments, in which Kneller can be seen in the process of resolving questions of pose and composition with broad and sure strokes of the chalk. It is particularly satisfying, of course, when a drawing can be directly linked with a known painting, as in the case of this present sketch. It rehearses the executed composition of the Portrait of Vice Admiral John Benbow, as here shown brandishing a cutlass, now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum. This portrait was one of a set of portraits of Admirals, divided between works by Kneller and Dahl, which was commissioned c.1700 by Prince George of Denmark. As a detail it is interesting that the features of the subject in the drawing are recognisably those of Benbow as he appears in the finished painting, distinguishable by his bold and slanting eyebrows. This confirms that the drawing is the result of a meeting between sitter and painter, and not a stock ‘posture’.

National Portrait Gallery chalk drawing after Sir Godfrey Kneller

Engraving of Admiral Benbow by W.T.Mote,

John Benbow Esq. Admiral of the Blue; Engraved by W.T. Mote, based on Kneller, 1831 for Locker’s Naval Gallery

“Perhaps no name is better remembered among our seamen than that of their ancient favourite, Benbow, whose death, recorded in one of their most popular ballads, still cheers the middle watch of many a stormy night at sea.”
(Edward Hawke Locker, The Naval Gallery of Greenwich Hospital, 1831)

Engraving of Admiral Benbow by H.R.Cook

1808 Naval Chonicle; Engraved by H.R. Cook, based on Kneller’s painting in the collection of Admiral Sir Peter Denis

“From the admiral to the cabin-boy, the name of Benbow is so familiar to every individual in the navy, and his memory is so often mentioned with respect and admiration, that no excuse can be requisite for presenting a condensed narrative of his life and actions. We are the more induced to this from the circumstance of the original portrait of the admiral, for which he sat to Sir Godfrey Kneller, being in our possession; by which we are enabled to prefix to the memoir the only authentic engraved likeness of this officer now extant.”
The Naval Chronicle, vol.XX, 1808, p.169.

Portrait of Admiral Benbow, Shrewsbury,

Donated by Admiral’s sister to Town of Shrewsbury: Courtesy of Shrewsbury Museums Service, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK

“The Grand Jury room (Shrewsbury Town Hall) is decorated with portraits of Geo.I. and II. and one of the gallant Admiral Benbow…the portrait of Benbow (was given) by the Admiral’s sister, Mrs. Eleanor Hind.” (Hugh Owen, Some Account of the Ancient and Present State of Shrewsbury, 1808)

Engraving of Admiral Benbow by J.T.Wedgewood

Vice Admiral Benbow (for 1817 edition of Campbell); J T Wedgewood, engraver, based on Shrewsbury portrait

Engraving of Admiral Benbow by D.Parkes

Vice Admiral Benbow: Gentleman’s Magazine 1818; Engraved by James Basire and D. Parkes based on Shrewsbury painting

Mr. Urban, Shrewsbury, May 6.
As your pages preserve the portraits, and record the noble actions of many of the valorous sons of Britain, both naval and military, I wish to add another, in the renowned naval hero Admiral Benbow. The painting from which I copied the enclosed drawing, is in the grand Juryroom of his native town, presented by his sister Mrs. Eleanor Hind.”
D. Parkes
Gentleman’s Magazine, 1819, p.9.

The Gallant Benbow

The Gallant Benbow defeating the French Squadron: Woodcut for “British Trident” published 1804, author Archibald Duncan

Admiral Benbow Courageously Commanding his Men

Note National Maritime Museum version below: missing several details of original: no speaking trumpet; missing figure closest to Admiral.

Benbow’s Last Battle, by A.D.McCormick

National Maritime Museum: coloured engraving; Artist: A.D. McCormick. (whereabouts unknown) Exhibited 1934: see Royal Academy Illustrated 1934

Benbow on the Breda, by J.R.Skelton

Benbow on the ‘Breda’; Mary Evans Picture Library : J R Skelton in Lang, “Outposts of Empire” 1910

Benbow on the ‘Breda’, though wounded, directs the fighting against a French fleet off Jamaica until abandoned by other captains (who’ll be shot when they get home)

Admiral Benbow and the Pirates

Salted Provisions; Artist: H.M. Brock, in “Britain’s Sea Kings and Sea Fights”, by F. Norreys Connell, 1905

1899: “Brave Men in Action” by Mackenna and O’shea; Artist Stanley L. Wood,

Admiral Benbow Toby Jug

Toby Jug of Admiral Benbow (Franklin Mint)

Kirkby’s Court Martial, by W.A. Benbow

cabin courtmartial r2 small

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