There are two Anson Places in Plymouth – one in St Judes, the other in Devonport, deep in the heart of an area where British Naval heroes are commemorated in local street names.
Nicknamed the “Father of the Navy” George Anson was just such a hero. Born in 1697, the younger son of an English squire, he joined the Navy at the age of 14 and was in his early forties when, as Commodore of a small squadron put together to take Spanish prizes off the coast of South America.
After a long and eventful period at sea between 1740 and 1744 Anson returned home with over a million pieces of eight and 35,000 ounces of silver. The King congratulated Anson and the treasure was taken by the crew to the Tower of London in 30 wagons. However it didn’t go unnoticed that Anson had set out with more than 1,900 men and returned with around 500. Of the casualties only four had been killed by the enemy, the rest, almost 1,400, had died from disease and starvation. Through this tale of woe though came James Lind’s discovery that lime juice cured scurvy, this in turn led to improved diets for the men and better health among sailors. Anson also went on to put in place a number of important reforms within the Navy.