John Bidgood, MD, was the son of Humphrey Bidgood, an apothecary of Exeter, and was born in that city 13th March, 1623. At a fitting age he was sent to Exeter college, Oxford, and shortly afterwards had the misfortune to lose his father by poison. The draught, prepared by his own servant, Peter Moor, was, we are told by Prince, intended, not for him, but for his wife. For this crime the villain was deservedly executed at the Magdalen gallows in 1641. Shortly after this, Mr Bidgood was elected a fellow of his college; and in 1647, without having taken a degree in arts, was actually created bachelor of medicine. The university was now becoming too hot for the friends of legitimate government; and Bidgood was, in 1648, removed from his fellowship by the Parliamentary visitors: first, for non-submission, and secondly, for drinking toasts to the confusion of reformers. He then proceeded to Italy, studied for a time at Padua, and having there taken his degree of doctor of medicine, returned to England, and commenced practice at Chard in Somersetshire; but after a few years' continuance there, settled in his native city, Exeter. His scientific reputation had preceded him and though his manners were haughty, morose, and repulsive, the skill he was known to possess, his minute attention to the symptoms of every case submitted to him, and his accuracy in diagnosis – “Bigodi sagacitatem et in diagnosticis peritiam” - made his advice eagerly sought for, far and near.
Dr Bidgood was incorporated doctor of medicine at Oxford, 20th September, 1660; and was admitted an Honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians in December, 1664. He contributed 100l towards the building of the college in Warwick lane; and by the Charter of James II anno 1686, was created an Ordinary Fellow, but was not present at the Comitia Majora Extraordinaria, of 12th April, 1687, specially called for the reception of the Charter, and the admission of new Fellows, and was never, as I infer, actually admitted as such.
In August, 1662, Dr Bidgood is met with as a magistrate for the county of Devon. Prince, who knew him well, assures us that he realised a splendid fortune, represented by Wood as between 25,000l and 30,000l. He purchased the barton at Rockbeare, Devon, still in the possession of his family; and in the “Act Book” of Bishop Lamplugh, p.137, it is recorded that his lordship, on the 14th October, 1680, confirmed to the doctor, his heirs and assigns, the north aisle of the parish church of Rockbeare.
Dr Bidgood died at his house in the cathedral Close, Exeter, 13th January, 1691, in the 68th year of his age. “Shortly before his death,” says Wood, “he desired pardon of the whole world, and especially of several persons with whom he had any animosity.” The doctor died a bachelor, and left the bulk of his property to his kinsman, Humphrey Bidgood. He was buried in Exeter cathedral near the Lady chapel. The spot is indicated by the following inscription:-
Here lyeth the body of JOHN BIDGOOD, Doctor of Physick, who was born the 13th March, 1623, and died the 13th January, 1690; who, by education, study, and travel rendered himself one of the most accomplished and beneficial physicians of his age.
His heir, Humphrey, soon after erected to his memory a monument of blue marble, with the following epitaph:-
JOHANNIS BIDGOOD, M.D.
Hac civitate III. id. Martii nati
Denato vero Idibus Januarii ?
Quem, si Artis Medicæ
decus et ornamentum,
si Hippocratem, Galenum,
istiusve sæculi Æsculapium
verecunde dixeris viator.