Francis Godolphin Bond (1765 – 1839)
Some of the oldest objects in the RAMM’s collections were passed to the newly founded Albert Memorial Museum in the 1870’s by the Devon and Exeter Institution (DEI), which still stands in Cathedral Close, Exeter.
Fig. 1 The Devon and Exeter Institution, Cathedral Close, Exeter.
The DEI was created in 1813 by a group of around 200 Devon ‘gentlemen’, and was intended to be a centre for ‘promoting the general diffusion of Science, Literature and Art and for illustrating the Natural and Civic History of the County of Devon and the City of Exeter’. Specimens were donated to the institution to support these intentions, and these were held at the DEI until the idea of an Albert Memorial Museum for Exeter was conceived following the death of the Prince Consort in 1861. When the memorial museum in Queen Street was completed in 1868 many items from the DEI were donated to the RAMM.
Among these items are pieces which are now held in the RAMM’s World Cultures collection, and these include some extraordinary pieces from Tahiti, which were donated to the DEI by Francis Godolphin Bond.
Bond was a Rear Admiral at the end of his life, and had sailed with Captain Bligh in the Pacific in the 1790’s. He was also a founder member and registered ‘proprietor’ of the Devon and Exeter Institution from its foundation. His valuable collection from the early days of Pacific exploration was subsequently passed to the RAMM.
Fig. 2 The display of the costume of the chief mourner (heva tapapa’u) in RAMM’s World Cultures gallery.
Which items of Bond’s collection did the D&EI donate?
The RAMM’s Accession Book for 1868 lists nineteen ‘specimens’ specifically as Francis Godolphin Bond’s donation. Some of the objects are still accompanied by original handwritten labels which identify their origins, such as ‘Otaheite/Presented by Capt Bond R.N.’ and these items are explored in the section below.
In Bond’s day the island of Tahiti (part of the Society Islands) was referred to as Otaheite, and the RAMM Accession book uses this older terminology.
Bond donated further Pacific items to the DEI but not all of the material was identified with his name in the register when the collections were passed to the RAMM. For example, one significant item, the Tahitian Mourning Costume, was not initially identified as Bond’s in the museum register, but was later connected with Bond because of an entry in the DEI Minute books. Further objects have since been attributed to Bond, including some Hawaiian material, because these items were listed in the register as donations from the DEI. These are also shown below.
Bond donated the first of his items to the DEI in 1815. This was a costume of the Chief mourner (heva tupapa’u) which was recorded in the meeting of the committee in February as a donation from Captain Bond and recorded as ‘Dress of a native of Otaheite’. (The entry appears alongside an entry marking the donation of a collection of minerals from a Reverend Weston and the ‘Head and Horn of a Narwhal’ from a Mr Lee of Ebford – Minutes of the Meetings of the Devon and Exeter Institution Committee, 1815, p.91.)
In the years that the objects spent in the DEI some deterioration took place. Of the thirteen bark cloths connected to Bond that were originally givento the RAMM, six were rejected at the time (5 are known today E1767a-e). Two were recorded as destroyed in 1872.
The Second Breadfruit Voyage (1791-3)
Bond’s collection was made during the voyage of HMS Providence to the South Seas, between 1791 and 1793. The ship was built especially to make it possible to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti and transporting to the West Indies. The Captain, William Bligh, and his crew were responsible for collecting these plants and nurturing them on the six month voyage to the Caribbean, so that they could be established as food for the expanding enslaved populations in the sugar plantations.
Fig. 3 Watercolour painting of the Providence and Assistant by George Tobin, 1791. Series 2: Sketches on HMS Providence; including some sketches from later voyages on Thetis and Princess Charlotte, 1791-1811/by George Tobin. FL1606948 Courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)
Bligh’s earlier mission in HMS Bounty, in 1789, which had been backed by Sir Joseph Banks, had ended in failure when Fletcher Christian and eight others in the crew had carried out their infamous mutiny. They cast Bligh and eighteen of his supporters off, in the ship’s boat and over the next six weeks Bligh navigated the boat to safety in Timor.
As on the Bounty, there were pots of plants on deck on the Providence and a specially designed plant nursery below. There was even a coal heater installed for use when sailing in the colder latitudes.
When Bligh was able to generate support for a second Breadfruit Mission in 1791 he invited his nephew, Francis Goldolphin Bond to accompany him. (Bond was the son of Bligh’s half sister, Catherine). Bond and Bligh spent two years on the voyage together, which included four months in Tahiti supervising the collection and transplanting young breadfruit plants.
This time Bligh’s plants were delivered safely to Jamaica and St Vincent for the plantations, but, despite his ambitions, it gradually became clear that Bligh’s contribution to the slave economy was less valuable than he had hoped, as the enslaved Africans initially preferred plantain to breadfruit.
The relationship of the uncle to his nephew, who was only eleven years his junior, has been examined by scholars exploring the personality of Bligh and investigating possible reasons for the mutiny on board Bounty. One of these, Gavin Kennedy has analysed the relationship between Bligh and Bond and suggests that the management styles of the two men were very different and this might have caused tension. Bligh liked to delegate tasks but would ‘chase up’ the all the details himself, a model Kennedy calls ‘command and check’. But Bond would trust his colleagues to complete their orders and liked to use his own initiative and to draw on his naval experience.
[George Mackaness, Fresh Light on Bligh, being Some Unpublished Correspondence between Captain William Bligh R.N. and Lieutenant Francis Godolphin Bond R.N., Sydney, 1953. Mackaness used Bond’s notes on the voyage of the Providence in his book and also used Bligh and Bond’s correspondence about the voyages of the Bounty and the Providence, from the National Maritime Museum Greenwich collections. He also drew on Ida Lee, Captain Bligh’s Second Voyage to the South, London, 1920, available on Project Gutenberg Books, Australia.]
Bond was an experienced seaman who had served in twelve different ships in the twelve years before he joined the Providence. His uncle, though older, had only been in nine ships in his fifteen years service. Bond was also fastidious about etiquette, which was not important to Bligh who avoided it wherever possible. Bond’s letters to his seniors, for example, were carefully drafted and reworked to include the correct phrases to appeal for promotion through his career. Bond also presented himself as a more modest man. To his brother Thomas, Bond wrote that he admired Bligh’s ‘extensive knowledge a seaman and nautical astronomer’ but he condemned his ‘want of modesty in self-estimation’.
The voyage to Tahiti set out from Spithead on 3 August 1791. The purpose-built, ninety-eight foot long Providence was accompanied by a fifty-one foot long Brig, the Assistant. Providence carried a hundred men of whom twenty were marines; Assistant had a further twenty-seven men on board, including four marines. Like the previous breadfruit enterprise, the voyage was supported by Joseph Banks. Two botanists accompanied the crew, James Wiles and Christopher Smith. Bond, James Guthrie and George Tobin were Lieutenants. Both Bond and Tobin compiled their own logs of the journey, and Tobin made illustrations. The midshipman, Matthew Flinders, also brought back material from Tahiti and this is now in the British Museum.
The journey proceeded via Tenerife and the Cape of Good Hope. Bligh did not re-attempt the route round Cape Horn which had caused enormous difficulty on his previous breadfruit voyage. Nevertheless the Captain encountered some difficulties. As they left Table Bay, at the end of December 1791, Lieutenant Tobin recorded that ‘a few passing squalls have taken us, within board as well as without’. He was possibly referring to the tensions that had built up since Tenerife, while Bligh was sick and suffering headaches which Bligh recorded as ‘beyond all description’.
By February 1792 the Providence arrived at Adventure Bay off Tasmania. Wiles and Smith made natural history studies and planted some trees. Bligh publicised his own involvement by having an inscription carved into the trees: ‘Near this tree Captain William Bligh planted seven fruit trees 1792 – Messrs. S. and W., botanists’. Two months after this, on 9 April 1792, Providence and the Assistant arrived in Matavai Bay, Tahiti.
The crews were met by the crew of the Matilda, a convict ship and whaler that had been wrecked off Moruoa Atoll in February that year. Bligh would take thirteen of the stranded crew back to England when Providence left Tahiti. Two Tahitians also took the voyage to England with Bligh. One of these, a chief’s representative known as Mydiddee, became sick before the Providence left Jamaica, and he died within a month of arriving in London. A second man, Pappo had stowed away, but because he had assisted the botanists with their work on Tahiti, he was allowed to stay on board to help establish the plants in Jamaica. Pappo remained in Jamaica with James Wiles who set up the Public Nursery in Bath (Jamaica). Within a few months of Providence sailing for England, Pappo died, in October 1793.
The Providence remained in Tahiti until 19 July 1792, when, accompanied by Assistant, the ship left Matavia Bay for the Caribbean. They broke the journey in October at Timor (where the crew heard that some of the mutineers of the Bounty had been taken prisoner) and plants were exchanged. The journey then continued for two months until the ships arrived at St Helena in December, where the company remained for ten days. On 27 December they set off for St Vincent.
Arriving at St Vincent a month later, no time was lost in offloading some of the breadfruit plants in pots and tubs as the plants were beginning to suffer. Some other plants from St Vincent’s Botanical Garden were brought on board to be carried to Kew. The voyage resumed six days later and Jamaica was reached on 5 February 1793. The transfer and establishment of the plants were well underway when the crew heard, on 30 March, that Britain was at war with France. Providence was ordered to become involved with the conflict and to stop all French vessels which delayed the ships’ departure from Jamaica until June. Eventually in the company of three other ships, Providence and Assistant left Jamaica on 15 June 1793. The ships arrived in England at Tilbury on 3 August 1793 and then at Deptford on 9 August. From here a lighter conveyed the plant collection to Kew Gardens. Lieutenant Tobin was later to write: ‘Perhaps there never were so many plants deposited in the Royal Garden at one time, from intertropical countries.’[ix]
Trade in Tahiti
On arrival in Tahiti in April 1792, Bligh had established a trading post at Point Venus to receive the breadfruit plants, and other botanical material. He noted deterioration in the standard of Tahitian dress since his previous visit in 1788-89. This was blamed on the increasing presence of Europeans in the island and a disruption of the indigenous social structure. Foreigners were met with regularly now and were no longer the novelty they had been five years before.
Bond recorded the exchange the crew had with the indigenous population in his ship’s log. For example, the day after Providence moored at Matavai Bay, he recorded that the ship had a visit from ‘queen Edeea’ and later commented that ‘natives’ were on board ‘as usual’ and at sunset the ‘ladies’ were dancing the ‘heeve’. Bond was clearly interested in the indigenous way of life. He described the ‘houses of the natives’ and also commented on their performances when they danced, using contortions and causing hilarity by mimicking white visitors.
Part of Bond’s log for this period in Tahiti is concerned with retrieving the boat and muskets that had survived Matilda’s shipwreck but at some point in the four-month stay in Tahiti he was able to acquire the material that is now in the RAMM. He clearly admired Tahitian craftsmanship, equating the decorated war-clubs with the work of European artists. ‘In many points we had reason to believe them equal to european artists; for some of their war clubs, parries [parae mourning dress] taumee’s [taumi gorgets], cordage, hair nets etc etc are wrought with great precision and judgement’. He also commented on the role of human sacrifice, and indigenous beliefs in a supreme being and an afterlife.
Bond’s log reports on the collection of plant specimens and he records plant pots being made and delivered to shore, a greenhouse being constructed, the (plentiful) diet of fresh fruit and pork available and the numbers of plants brought aboard. However his transactions concerning the RAMM collection are not noted.
Nevertheless the information in Bond’s log and in the log kept by Midshipman Flinders’ can throw some light on the way these items may have come into Bond’s hands. Bond described the way that Tahitians were keen to make taio relationships with the sailors on their arrival on the island. The taio relationship was sealed by exchanging names and gifts. When the queen ‘Edeea’ visited the Providence Bond noted that she and the chiefs were ‘very assiduous in making tyo’s (friends)’.[vii] Flinders noted that the middle-ranking Tahitians could not provide a mourning dress to their taios, ‘which the chiefs only are in possession of’. As Bond was a Lieutenant this may explain his obtaining a mourning costume while Flinders, the midshipman, collected bark cloths but no mourning dress.[viii]
Art Historian Anne D’Alleva has suggested that ‘Flinders and Bond may have been wrapped in the decorated capes’ they received as part of an ‘investiture ritual’.[ix] She also points out that the skills and finesse shown in Bond’s costume and in Flinders’ bark cloths surpass those seen in an earlier dress collected by Captain Cook in 1774. She suggests that this reflects the increasing exchange of goods and of skills, technologies (such as scissors) and visual vocabulary between Polynesians and Europeans at this time.
Flinders’ collection was not bequeathed to the British Museum until 1933 while Bond donated his costume to the Devon and Exeter Institution in 1815.[x] It is to Bond’s relationship with this institution and with Devon that we now turn.
Bond’s connection to the South West of England
Bond had been baptised at St. Stephens by Saltash, in Cornwall, on 15 February 1765, the son of Catherine (née Pearce) and John Bond (England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975).
Catherine was half-sister to William Bligh as her mother, Jane Balsam had married Bligh’s father, Francis Bligh in 1753, after first being married to Richard Pearce. Catherine married John Bond who was a surgeon in the Royal Navy and their son Francis Godolphin grew up in Plymouth.
Francis Godolphin Bond married his wife, Sophia Snow, who was then twenty years of age, in Oporto, in 1801.
Young Bond had been First Lieutenant on the schooner HMS Netley, patrolling off Spain and Portugal in 1799 and 1800. Sophia’s father Thomas was from Exeter (born in Molland) and had married a Yorkshire wife in 1777 before moving to Oporto where their nine children were born. Thomas Snow was probably a wine merchant (his son, also Thomas, took up this trade) and Bond had ‘received the thanks of the merchants and was voted a gift of plate’ for protecting their interests in Oporto and Lisbon when serving on the Netley.
‘On this station he captured 47 vessels, many of which were armed privateers, and some of a force superior to his own.’ Gentleman’s Magazine, 1840, p. 321
On being promoted to Commander in December 1800 Bond retired from the Netley. He married Sophia Snow on 16 February the next year in the British Factory Chaplaincy, Oporto. (Select Marriages, Portugal, 1670-1910)
The Snow family had a property at Cleve, Exwick, outside Exeter from around 1800, and it seems that Sophia and Francis spent some time there. In 1803 Captain Bligh wrote to Bond at this address in July to announce his new appointment as Governor to New South Wales. He addressed his letter to ‘Lieut Fras. G. Bond R.N., Sea Fencibles, at Cleave, near Exeter, Devon.’ Bond had been given the role of Commander of the defensive guard, the Sea Fencibles, in the same year. The Sea Fencibles were a volunteer force introduced to protect the coast against Napoleonic invasion and Bond was in charge of the area from Puncknole in Dorset to Teignmouth in Devon.
Over the next twenty-eight years the couple had eleven children. The birthplaces of these children help to indicate where the Bonds may have lived after they returned to England.
The Bond’s first four children were registered in Teignmouth, between 1803 and 1808. Tucker was born in 1803, Francis in 1805, Frances Eliza in 1806 and Sophia Charlotte in 1808. We do not know where, or whether, Bond lived in Teignmouth itself. From 1813 to 1818 his letters and records at the Devon and Exeter Institution give his address as ‘Starcross’ and indeed their next child, Margaret, was registered in Kenton in 1811. (Starcross did not have its own registry of births until 1828).
Margaret was followed by Henry in 1812, Emily in 1815 and Juliana in 1817. All were registered in Kenton. The family seems to have stayed in Starcross until 1818 as a letter from George Tobin to Bond, written in December 1817, indicates that Bond family were still living in Starcross at that date. However they moved to Exeter by 1819, as George was born in Exeter in 1819 and registered at Alphington. He was followed by Frederick in 1821 and by the last child, Edward 1829. It therefore seems that the Bonds lived first at Cleve and the Teignmouth area from 1803; then in Starcross from around 1811 to 1819; and in 1819 they moved into Exeter, into one of the grand houses on Colleton Crescent.
These houses were newly constructed, having been built from 1802 to 1814 by Matthew Nosworthy. (Nosworthy had designed some of the houses in Southernhay in the 1790’s.)
Bond would still be able to see ships around him in Colleton Crescent because the houses looked down on the busy harbour and quayside, where trade was brisk and ships were loaded and unloaded near the custom house and canals. A painting by Turner from 1827 depicts the scene and shows the grand houses of Colleton Crescent clearly on the hill above the quay.
Bond in Exeter
Bond’s activity within the Devon & Exeter Institution increased after the family moved into Exeter. He attended more meetings and was recorded as a regular visitor to the library. (Bond was also a trustee of the Devon and Exeter Savings Bank, which was founded 4 December 1815. In the 22nd annual statement Bond is listed as a Rear-Admiral Bond of Colleton Crescent).
He became a committee member in 1819 and it was about this time that the museum committee of the DEI became more active. Lack of space had inhibited the growth of the collection after Bond made his first donation in 1815, but from 1818 a renewed effort was made to collate and complete the museum collections. The priority for the institution was Natural History and the committee recommended that their collections should focus on the British Isles, specifically concentrating on collecting specimens from Devon
By this time Bond’s family had grown and the household must have been busy. Some of the Bond’s children did not outlive their parents. George lived only until he was seven and Margaret died at twenty-one. Two sons, Tucker and Henry died in the armed services. They were memorialised with Bond and Sophia in a family grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in South Street, Exeter which had been built in 1820.
The Church and graveyard were deconsecrated in 1977 but the Bond memorial inscription was transcribed. It read:
Sacred to the memory of Rear Admiral Francis Godolphin Bond, who after twenty-five years of professional service exhibited throughout the remainder of his life a bright example of private virtue of domestic affection, of religious principles, and of active benevolence, to a generous disregard of self, an habitual cheerfulness, a constant endeavour to promote the happiness of all around him, was joined with the firm and humble faith of a Christian. His never failing support in his last illness and in the hour of his death.
Born 25 Jan.1765, died Oct. 26 1859 [sic- in fact Bond died in 1839]. Sacred also to the memory of four sons and a daughter of the above F. G. Bond and Sophia his wife.
Tucker Francis Lieut, in the Hon. E.I.C.S. born 18th June 1805 killed in the Burmese war near Rangoon 7th Oct. 1824. George Hardy born 10th Feb. 1819 died 17th June, 1826. Margaret born 2 Dec. 1810 died 3rd Feb. 1831. Henry Mate of H.M.S. Fair Rosamond born 2 Aug. 1812, died at Ascension 3rd Jan. 1840.
Francis Godolphin Lieut R.N. commanding H.M. Brigg Forester born 16 Dec. 1804 died on his passage from Sierra Leone to Ascension 16 July 1840. Also to the memory of Sophia, relict of the above Admiral Francis Godolphin Bond who departed this life on the 2nd of Feb  aged 88 years.
The tomb’s remains were moved to the Higher Cemetery in Exeter in 1977 where a simpler inscription has been added to the tombstone:
‘Francis Godolphin Bond, Rear Admiral, died 26th October 1839, aged 74; Sophia his wife, died 2nd Feb1870, aged 88.’
There is no known painted portrait of Bond but a silhouette of the Rear Admiral exists. His face was apparently badly scarred from injuries he had sustained while only fourteen years old. A letter held by Bond’s relative today (Alison Pryce) and written by Rear Admiral Johnstone Hope from Edinburgh in May 1816, in support of Bond’s request for a Pension from the Admiralty, explained that:
Captain Francis Godolphin Bond was, on or about the month of October 1779, blown up by an explosion of Gun Powder on board the Pilote cutter, a prize for his Majesty’s Ship Crescent, where he was ordered on duty and that he was then most dreadfully scorched and wounded… [and] … was for years an object of great misery and that when I last saw captain Bond his fingers then continued contracted from the effects of the Gun Powder as well as his Face lacerated most dreadfully.
Despite these afflictions it appears that Bond was a good-natured and helpful family man; something of a stickler for etiquette; active in the community and supportive of others. His naval career spanned twenty-eight eventful years, a period in which he travelled with Bligh, battled with the French and encountered distant communities and countries around the world, and apparently made his fortune. Nevertheless Bond’s years in retirement in Devon were longer than his years in service and his legacy is still valued by the RAMM today, in his remarkable Pacific collection.
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Australian National Herbarium (Wiley)
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Devon and Exeter Institution
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Allan, J. 1995. Artifacts at Exeter City Museums from Bligh’s Second Voyage to Tahiti in Pacific Arts, No. 11/12 (July 1995), pp.43-7
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Marshall, Lieut. J. 1825. Royal Naval Biography. London.
Wilson, E. 2017. A Social History of British Naval Officers, 1775-1815. Suffolk: Boydell Press.