image: Godalming Museum ref: B012.65
portrait by Mather Brown
Godbold's plaque in Godalming Parish Church
To the Memory of
NATHANIEL GODBOLD ESQr
Inventor & Proprietor
of that excellent Medicine
The Vegetable Balsam
For the cure of Consumptions & Asthmas.
He departed this Life
the 17th day of Dec’ber 1799
Aged 69 years
Hic Cineres, ubique Fama.
[Here his ashes, everywhere his fame]
Godbold had been an apprentice to James Mapes, a baker, in Bungay, Suffolk. In 1773 the Norwich Theatrical Company rented a new theatre which Godbold had built in the Castle yard, Bungay.
In 1785 Godbold was in Bloomsbury Square, London, when he applied for a patent for a ‘vegetable balsam’. The Times on 9 May 1785 printed an article that a ‘treatise’ had been published with certificates to its reputation. The parish officers decided to check out claims by nobility and six gentlemen belonging to the Marquis of Lothian's troop of horse grenadier guards, who had been in “such dangerous situations from consumptive complaints but are fully recovered”. The parish officers gave their full agreement to its cures. In 1790, with the success of his vegetable balsam, Nathaniel bought Westbrook, Oglethorpe’s old home, from Christopher Hodges. On the 27 November 1798 a second patent was granted.
In his will, of 1799, Nathaniel Godbold of Bloomsbury Square, left the secret of making Godbold's Vegetable Balsam to this three children, Samuel of Old Bond Street, London, Nathaniel of Beccles, Suffolk, grocer, and Louisa of Bloomsbury Sq., on the understanding that the secret was to remain with his children, and they were not to divulge the secret to anyone except one of the family, if they did they would forfeit £50,000. After Nathaniel died in 1799 his children were carrying on the manufacturing of the Balsam in their father's house. In his will he lowered the price so as the “poor class of people may reap the benefit of this valuable discovery” down to 10/6 per pint, and to the distressed poor, where it was an act of charity, the price was to be 6/- a pint. He left £10 to the churchwardens of Godalming, £10 every New Year’s Day in Maundy and bread. His estate was to be divided between his children. His body was to be interred in a vault in the chancel at Godalming and the family coat of arms (same as Sir Wm. Godbold, of Mendham, in Suffolk) was to be shown.
Godbold stated in his will: “Also to pay the poor of Bungay £10 every winter”. Bungay was the name used by H G Wells for his novel Tono-Bungay (1909). This novel mentions by name Whitaker Wright of Witley and the main character Edward Ponderevo, a chemist, is based upon him. The novel is about a chemist who makes a fortune from a tonic and buys a mansion, as Godbold had done. As H G Wells visited Godalming to see his two brothers, he would have heard of Godbold, and based the novel and title on him. A full history of Nathaniel Godbold of Godalming and London 1731-1799 by Ann Laver (2011) can be seen in Godalming Museum Local Studies Library.
In 2010 Godalming Museum bought an oil portrait painting; Portrait of Nathaniel Godbold Esq. (d 1799) with an inscription on a letter: N Godbold Esqre; Bloomsbury Square, 30 inches by 25 inches, which had been in the family of Sir Joseph Terry, York, confectioner and founder of Terry’s Chocolates, and his descendants. The painting is by Mather Brown (1761-1831), an American artist from Boston who came to England. The painting was purchased with a grant from The National Arts Council and donations.
A full history of Nathaniel Godbold of Godalming and London 1731-1799 by Ann Laver (2011) can be seen in Godalming Museum Local Studies Library
Godbold’s Vegetable Balsam
George III granted Nathaniel two patents for his vegetable balsam. The first in 1785 for
“THE CURE OF CONSUMPTION AND DISEASE IN THE LUNGS BY HIM CALLED ‘GODBOLD’S VEGETABLE BALSAM’’,
within England, Wales and the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The unaltered names of the herbs (from which the essence was extracted for compounding the vegetable balsam) were listed in the first patent as:
The essences of all the herbs were extracted by distillation, and preserved separately and apart from each other in syrups, and mixed with the following gums: gum dragon, gum guaicum, gum Arabic and gum Canada. These were dissolved in double distilled vinegar, with a quantity of storax dissolved in spirits of wine, and oil of cinnamon. The balsam was bottled and kept for three full years before it was ‘fit to be administered or proper to be taken as a medicine’.
In 1798 a second patent was granted, in which was added Venus turpentine and the herbs: horehound, coltsfoot, buck thornberries, slows, hips, peaches and mulberries. This was for “THE CURE OF THE SCROPHULA AND GOUT, BY HIM CALLED ‘GODBOLD’S VEGETABLE BALSAM, GODBOLD’S VEGETABLE OINTMENT AND GODBOLD’S VEGETABLE PILL”’.
Godalming Museum © 2011
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