Alice Beagley, Museum officer
When you think of the Bank of England, you don’t often think about shark attacks. But perhaps that’s because we’ve yet to introduce you to Sir Brook Watson (1730-1807), merchant, politician, and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.
Born in Plymouth, Devon in 1730, Watson worked on his uncle’s merchant ship from the age of 14, trading between Massachusetts and the West Indies. While the ship was in Havana, Cuba, Watson went swimming in the harbour and was attacked by a shark. He was rescued by his crew-mates, but was so badly injured that his right leg had to be amputated.
Incredibly, Watson survived not only the shark-attack and nearly drowning, but also receiving emergency surgery on a ship in the 1700s! For the rest of his life, he walked with the aid of a wooden leg.
Emboldened, perhaps, by surviving the shark attack, Watson went on to have a career as a merchant and army official during times of great political change. In 1772 he was one of the founding members of Lloyds of London, and conducted business between the United Kingdom and Revolutionary America. In 1775, however, he was accused of spying for the British, making for a speedy return to London.