In 1794, when Francis William Locke Ross was just a year old, his father died at sea. Despite these tragic circumstances the young Francis followed the family tradition. After serving as a Royal Navy officer he retired in 1830 to live at Broadway House in Topsham, Devon.
Francis William Locke Ross devoted the rest of his life to collecting and the study of natural history. He created his own museum with specimens from around the world. It reflected his broad interests in ethnography and archaeology, as well as some rare and valuable specimens of birds, shells and geology. Many of the birds in the collection are from the Exeter area. His beautifully illustrated notebooks are held by the Southwest Heritage Trust.
Ross died at home on Christmas Day 1860. He was a kind, humble man. One obituary stated “but for which modesty he would have made a name more extendedly known among men of science.”
Ross’ most important specimen
The most significant specimen Ross acquired is a great black-headed gull (Larus ichthyaetus). This specimen is the first recorded sighting of a great black-headed gull in the British Isles. William Pine noticed it in spring 1859. Pine was aware of Ross’ interest in seagulls so he promptly shot it!