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Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography
Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed many times out of the port of Great Yarmouth, also landing back there victoriously after his many naval engagements. During his stay in the town he would reside at the Elizabethan Star Hotel on Hall Quay, in a room that had been named after him. Unfortunately when extensions were made to the Post Office the hotel was taken apart and shipped to America. Great Yarmouth decided to commemorate Nelsons connections to the town and his victories and it was decided that a monument should be erected. A committee was duly formed made up of Norfolk businessmen; amongst their members were The Earl of Orford (Swaffham) and Thomas William Coke (Holkham). These men managed to raise 7,000 and people were asked to send in designs for the monument, in all the committee received forty-four proposals. They decided upon a design by a London architect William Wilkin who himself was a native of Norwich. His design was a Greek Athenian Doric column toped by a statue not of Nelson but of Britannia - ruler of Englands Waves!

The first stone was laid in 1817 some 12 years after Nelson death with the entire work being completed by 1819. It was decided that this monument should be erected on land that had originally formed part of the Militia Barracks on a place called South Dene. 

The Denes was the name originally given by Edward I to land outside the town's walls. Land that was used for public hanging, cattle grazing and for the fishermen of Great Yarmouth to spread out their nets to dry. During the Napoleonic wars the Denes were used for military manoeuvres and in 1809 a Royal Naval Hospital was built there, which was later incorporated into the Militia Barracks. In 1810 the officers of the Barracks decided to construct a racecourse on the Denes in order to race their horses. This they did and it proved a popular venue frequented by the 'fashionable personages' of the time. It was in the middle of this racecourse that Nelsons monument was built.
 
The monument, which still stands to this day, though alas is somewhat the worse for wear and is now surrounded by offices. Though there are plans afoot to improve the area and restore the monument to its former glory, if sufficient funds can be found. It stands some 144 feet high (43 metres) and inside contains 217 steep steps, which lead to a viewing platform that is now closed to the public because of safety considerations. Britannia is supported by six Caryatids (carved female figures clad in long robes) and in her hand she holds an Olive branch. Inscribed at the base of the monument are Nelson's victories, Aboukir, St. Vincent, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar. Also set atop the pedestal is battle inscriptions with the names of ships on which Nelson sailed. On the western side of the pedestal in Latin is an inscription which reads "This great man Norfolk boasts her own, not only as born there of a respectable family, and as there having received his early education, but her own also in talents, manners and mind."
Strangely Britannia faces inland rather than out to sea, some say that she is looking towards the port from which Horatio Nelson sailed. However, the main consensus of opinion favours that she is in fact looking towards the village of Burnham Thorpe where Nelson was born and grew up.

Like all public works the eventual cost of the monument ran over, coming in at 10,000.00, though this sum did include the building of a 'Monument House' (a substantial cottage built to the south of the monument and later demolished) in which it was decreed that an incumbent should reside and look after and show the monument to the public. Further that this incumbent must be a sailor who had fought under the banner of Nelson.

The first occupant of 'Monument House' was one James Sharman a Great Yarmouth man who had been press-ganged into the navy at the tender age of 14. He had served aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and claimed that he helped carry Nelson below when he was fatally wounded. He remained Keeper from 1819 until his death in 1867. In the year 1827 Sharman rescued the crew of the brig Hammond that was wrecked on the beach near to Monument House. Charles Dickens who was in town around that time is said to have read about the rescue in the local newspaper. Dickens then visited Sharman in the Monument House in Yarmouth and based his character Ham Peggoty in his novel David Copperfield, on James Sharman.

Before opening, the monument claimed the life of Great Yarmouths chief surveyor one Thomas Sutton, who in 1819 decided to climb the 217 stairs to the top of the monument. There Thomas Sutton then in his sixties collapsed and died.

When Nelson visited Great Yarmouth he spent a great deal of his time at the Wrestlers Inn that stands on Church Plain. Here in November 1800 the mayor Samuel Baker presented Nelson with the freedom of the borough. As he was administering the oath to Nelson the town clerk noticed that Nelson had placed his left hand on the book. Shocked the official said to Nelson 'My lord, your right hand" to which Nelson replied "that is in Tenerife'. The landlady Mrs. Suckling (no relation to Nelson mother Catherine Suckling) then asked Nelson if she could change the name of her inn to the Nelson Arms, Nelson is said to have responded that he did not think that was a good idea 'being that I have but one'. 
Interestingly James Sharman the first caretaker of the monument had actually been working in the Wrestlers Inn in 1803 when he was press ganged into the navy.