Nelson - The Norfolk Hero
Our speaker Charles Lewis related the life of Nelson with special emphasis on his times in Norfolk.
Nelson was born, in 1758, in the rectory at Burnham Thorpe where his father was the rector. He was one of 11 children, 3 of whom died in infancy. He was named after his godfather Horatio Walpole, a nephew of Robert Walpole, our first prime minister. He was nine when his mother died. Nelson went to Norwich School and then to Paston School in North Walsham.
Nelson wanted to go to sea and did so in 1771. He had persuaded his father to approach Captain Maurice Suckling, his uncle, to join his ship which was part of a task force sailing to the Falklands. Nelson did join his uncle’s ship but didn't go to the Falklands, he ended up in the Thames estuary on a guard ship doing nothing much. But he moved on and joined a merchant ship to the West Indies, then joined an expedition to the Arctic on HMS Carcass.
Under Captain Suckling’s patronage Nelson’s career developed. And in 1777 he had his first command. Subsequently in 1781 he commanded the Albemarle.
Nelson met and married Francis ‘Fanny’ Nisbet in 1787 on the island of Nevis in the West Indies and returned to England and settled in Burnham Thorpe. We were told Nelson had a full social life and attended events in Kings Lynn, at the Black Boys in Aylsham and The Plough in Burnham Thorpe.
Nelson was recalled in 1793 and given command of the Agamemnon and then there were battles after battles:
Calvi where he lost the sight of one eye
Saint Vincent's in 1797, after which he was awarded a sword which he sent back to Lord Mayor of Norwich saying that it was in affection for his native county. In return he was given the freedom of the city.
Santa Cruz where he was injured and lost an arm
Battle of the Nile in 1798 and in this battle the very large flag of Le Genereux was taken by Nelson and is now in the Norfolk Museum Service.
Copenhagen 1801 where Nelson is quoted as saying “I really do not see the signal”
Trafalgar 1805 - Nelson’s last and most famous victory.
Bernard Matthews suggested and paid for the welcome to Norfolk signs ‘Nelson's County’