Bligh, William at Lambeth

Above: The house at 100 Lambeth Road.

The story of William Bligh’s life is one of adventure but also one of iron-willed determination. He was born on 9 September 1754, possibly in Plymouth, Devon or maybe nearby at the family home of Tintern Manor at Bodmin. Bligh’s father, Francis, was serving as a customs officer. Aged only seven, William was signed up for the Royal Navy, at a time when it was common to sign on a “young gentleman” simply to gain, or at least record, the experience at sea required for a commission. After years at sea, Bligh was selected in 1776 by Captain James Cook (1728–1779), for the position of sailing master of his ship Resolution and accompanied Cook on his third voyage to the Pacific Ocean. During that voyage, Cook was killed and Bligh played a significant role in navigating the beleaguered expedition back to England in August 1780. Bligh was also able to supply details of Cook’s last voyage following the return

In 1787, Bligh who was then a Lieutenant was put in command of a ship called the Bounty and set sail to collect Breadfruit from Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Bligh’s command was not popular and in 1789 the crew mutinied. They cast him adrift in a small boat with some of his officers. Bligh, who was skilled at navigating due to his voyage with Cook, sailed successfully 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km) to Timor, the nearest European colonial outpost. Against all the odds, Bligh survived the trip in the small boat and eventually made his way back to London where the crew who was him adrift were brought to justice.

Above: Blue Plaque on 100 Lambeth Road.

Although Blight did not spend much time in London, he did have a house at 100 Lambeth Road where there is a Blue Plaque to be seen. Both Bligh and his wife, who predeceased him in 1812, are buried in an imposing tomb in the churchyard of the former parish church, St Mary, Lambeth (now the Garden Museum). Bligh lived his later years in Kent, not in the house in Lambeth.

Above: Tomb in the churchyard of St Mary, Lambeth.

He died in London on 7 December 1817 during a visit to consult his doctor and was buried from his ‘late residence’ at 27 Old Bond Street. He was aged 64 and by that time he had reached the rank of Vice-Admiral.


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