Bigsby, Robert (DNB00)

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BIGSBY, ROBERT, LLD. (1806–1873), antiquary, was the only son of Robert Bigsby, registrar of the archdeaconry of Nottingham, which office, we are told, he held for upwards of thirty-one years. 'He had the honour,' according to his son, 'to be a frequent guest of the illustrious Washington while visiting America in 1787.' His son was born at Nottingham in 1806, and was educated at Repton school. Disappointed in the legal prospects to which he had been brought up, he turned his attention to the study of antiquities, and began to collect materials for a history of Repton. He was then residing at Wilfrid Cottage, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, having left Repton, where he had stayed for eleven years. The greater part of his life was spent in the accumulation and reproduction of archæologic material. He died 27 Sept. 1873 at 4 Beaufort Terrace, Peckham Rye, aged 67.

Bigsby distinguished himself as a virtuoso or collector of curiosities, 'relics and memorials,' as he calls them, of 'illustrious characters.' Amongst his most cherished possessions was Drake's astrolabe. This astrolabe, constructed for Captain (afterwards Sir Francis) Drake, prior to his first expedition to the West Indies in 1570, and subsequently preserved in a cabinet of antiques belonging to the Stanhope family, was presented in 1783 by Philip, earl of Chesterfield, on quitting England as ambassador to the court of Spain, to Bigsby's uncle, Rev. Thomas Bigsby, A.M., of Stanton Manor, Derbyshire, who had, in the preceding year, married the Hon. Frances Stanhope, widow, the earVs stepmother. In 1812 Thomas Bigsby gave it to Bigsby's father, who left it to his son. In 1831 Bigsby presented it to W'ilUam IV, who, in his turn gave it to Greenwich Hospital. Other relics of a like interesting character were bestowed by Bigsby on the British Museum. Some, however, he retained in his own possession, and of these was Sir F. Drake's tobacco-box, constructed, he tells us, of the horn of a 'foreign animal,' And bearing the celebrated navigator's arms and name. He also kept a chain to which Drake suspended his compass and other nautical instruments. This chain, about twenty feet long, was worn by Drake round his neck in the manner of a cordon, passed, however, thrice round the body. A fine original portrait of William Burton [q. v.], the antiquary, æt. 29 (the brother of the author of the 'Anatomy'), painted in 1604, was presented in 1837 by Bigsby to the Society of Antiquaries.

Bigsby describes himself in his works as LL.D., F.S.A., F.R.S., and as member of a great number of foreign societies. The full titles of his books in the order of their publication are: 1. 'The Triumph of Drake, or the Dawn of England's Naval Power, a Poem,' London, 1839. 2. 'Miscellaneous Poems and Essays,' London, 1842. 3. 'Visions of the Times of Old, or the Antiquarian Enthusiast,' 3 vols., London, 1848. 4. 'Boldon Delaval, a Love Story;' also 'My Cousin's Story; The Man on the Grey Horse;' Derby and London, 1850. 7. 'Dr. Bigsby and the Evangelicals, a Vindication of Boldon Delaval,' 12mo, Derby, 1850. 8. 'A Supplement to the Rev. Jos. Jones's Appendix to the Vindication of Boldon Deleval,' 12mo, Deerby, 1850. 9. 'Old Places revisited, or the Antiquarian Enthusiast,' 3 vols., London, 1801. 10. 'Scraps from my Note-Book, or Gleanings of Curious Facts connected with the Family —— History (sic) of D——shire;' Part I. (1) 'The Lucky Lackey;' (2) 'A Tale of a Cask;' (3) 'The Dilemma, London, 1853. 11. 'Ombo, a Dramatic Romance in twelve acts, with an historical introduction and notes,' London and Derby, 1853. 12. 'Historical and Topographical Description of Repton, in the County of Derby, comprising an incidental view of objects of note in its vicinity, with seventy illustrations on copper, stone, and wood,' London and Derby, 1854. 13. 'Remarks on the Expediency of founding a National Institution in honour of Literature.' 14. 'Irminsula, or the Great Pillar, a mythological research,' 1864. 15. 'A Tribute to the Memory of Scanderbeg the Great,' 1866. 16. 'National Honours and their Noblest Claimants,' London, 1867. 17. 'Memoir of the Orders of St. John of Jerusalem from the Capitulation of Malta till 1798,' 1869. He edited the 'History and Antiquities of the Parish Church of St. Matthew, Morley, in the County of Derby, by the late Rev. Samuel Fox, M.A., rector, with seventeen illustrations from original drawings by George Bailey,' London and Derby, 1872. He also contributed largely to various magazines and reviews.

[Times, 2 Oct. 1873; Men of the Time, 8th ed.; New Quarterly Review, July 1868; Brit. Mus. Catal.; the Freemason, 18 Oct. 1873.]

J. M.