There are many many websites about Horatio Nelson, his
life, his career and even his death. So instead
this article will concentrate on some of the interesting
facts and snippets of information that have come to
light over the years about this famous Norfolk
Man. Photographs above show Horatio Nelson - The
Parsonage at Burnham Thorpe by Francis Pocock - The bust
of Nelson in the local church.
Horatio Nelson was born on 29th September 1758 at
Burnham Thorpe, though some say his actual birth was not
at the Parsonage, as it which was being redecorated when
his mother went into labour. Nelsons mother Catherine
Suckling was related to many of Norfolk's grander
families. Her great-grandfather had been the first prime
minister of England. Unfortunately Nelson's
mother died on Boxing Day 1767 and according to her
daughter Susannah the reason for this early death
was that she had "bred herself to death." Nelson,
was only nine when his mother died.
It was mothers brother Captain Maurice Suckling who
assisted twelve year old Horatio to go to sea. Though
his comment upon hearing of Horatio's desire was less
"What has poor Horace done, who is so weak, that he,
above all the rest, should be sent to rough it out at
sea? But let him come and the first time we go into
action a cannon-ball may knock off his head and provide
for him at once".
Nelson's wife and her son
Horatio Nelson married Frances Nisbet on 11th March
1787. Frances was a 26 year old widow whom he met
in the West Indies she already had a son from her first
When Nelson go his appointment to the Agamemnon in
January 1793 Josiah Nisbet (Frances son) joined him as a
Midshipman. Josiah was instrumental in saving his
stepfather's life when he applied a tourniquet to
Nelson's shattered right arm when Nelson was shot.
Though Nelson subsequently lost this arm.
Although Josiah was given command of a number of ships,
it may have been more as a result of his relationship
with Nelson rather than his suitability. One day Nelson
received a letter from Josiah's Commander-in-Chief,
"It would be a breach of friendship to
conceal from you that he loves drink and low company, is
thoroughly ignorant of all forms of service,
inattentive, obstinate, and wrong-headed beyond measure,
and had he not been your son-in-law must have been
annihilated months ago. With all this, he is honest and
truth telling, and, I dare say, will, if you ask him,
subscribe to every word I have written."
Josiah was eventually paid off in 1800 and Nelson
recommended to the Admiralty that he should not be given
another ship to command.
Back at Burnham Thorpe
In December 1787 after 17 years service Nelson and his
crew were paid off by the Navy. He returned to Burnham
Thorpe, semi-retired living on half pay. He and his wife
and Josiah lived at the Parsonage. Fanny who had been
used to the heat of the tropics is said to have found
the Parsonage so cold that according to her
father-in-law "she took large doses of the bed".
She was also accustomed to servants, so was not used to
hands on wifely chores.
So in addition to managing thirty-five
acres of glebe land, Nelson also managed the house. Even
to buying cloth from his brother Suckling who kept the
village store at North Elmham. Nelson's father Edmund
moved out of the Parsonage to a small house at Burnham
Ulph to give his son and new wife more room.
Nelson spent his time working on the
land and visiting various Norfolk relatives including
Lord Walpole at Wolterton and Thomas William Coke of
Holkham Hall, the later signed his pension forms. He
also visited Wells-next-the-Sea where his sister
Susannah had married into the Bolton family. He could
often be found at the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market where
he would pick up his mail and the newspapers (in
Nelson's day the place was known as the Coaching House).
He spent the next five years writing to
the Admiralty seeking a new command but to no avail.
Then in 1793 with war brewing with France, he got his
wish. On 30th January 1793 he was given command of the
Agamemnon, a 64 gun ship.
The parsonage in Burnham Thorpe where Nelson was
born was alas demolished just after his fathers death in
1802, and replaced by the current rectory we see today,
which is in private hands. Now only a roadside plaque a
mile south of the village marks the place where the old
rectory stood and where Nelson was born.
Nelsons and Great Yarmouth
In November 1800 - the King George packet boat docked at
Great Yarmouth. It was two years after Nelson's victory
at the Battle of the Nile. On board was Horatio Nelson
in the company of Sir William and Lady Hamilton. All
three had just returned from a three-month tour of
Europe. A trip where Nelson had been entertained
by monarchs, politicians and heralded as a hero by
crowds of people. On stepping ashore, the Admiral
was greeted with wild cheering and gun salutes and after
entering the carriage prepared for him, the horses were
removed from the shafts and replaced with people, who
drew him in triumph to the Wrestler's Inn on Church
Plain (now known as Hardy's). Here the Mayor, Samuel
Baker, presented him with the freedom of the borough.
When administering the oath, the town
clerk noticed that Nelson had placed his left hand on
the book. Shocked, the official said, "Your right hand,
my lord." "That," replied the Admiral, "is at
Teneriffe". On his departure, the widowed landlady, a
Mrs Suckling, requested permission to change the name of
the inn to the Nelson Arms. Nelson suggested otherwise,
"Being that I have but one!" When in Yarmouth for any
time, Nelson stayed at the Star Hotel, an Elizabethan
house on Hall Quay, even having a room named after
himself. When extensions were made to the Post Office in
Great Yarmouth, the hotel was taken apart and shipped to
Letters From Fanny
In 2001 a trunk was discovered, by a man from Sotheby's
in the attic of a house, it contained seventy-two
letters. These letters were written by Frances Nelson to
Alexander Davison. The letters show that Francis Nelson
was not the cold wife portrayed by Lady Hamilton after
Nelsons death, who allegedly had made Nelson desperately
unhappy. Instead they show a wife who loved her husband
and who badly wanted him back. The letters also give us
an insight into how the break down of their marriage was
accelerated by letters written to Nelson in Great
Yarmouth which he never got round to reading, causing a
misunderstanding between him and Fanny, which hastened
the end of their life together as man and wife.
A Macabre Gift
Horatio Nelson used to keep a coffin stored up right in
his cabin onboard his ship? This wooden coffin was made
from the main mast of Napoleon's French battleship
L'Orient that Nelson had sunk off Aboukir Bay, in Egypt
in 1798. Captain Benjamin Hallowell who was also present
at the battle is said to have ordered his carpenter to
make the coffin using both the L'Orients wood and also
some of the ships iron. He then sent it to Horatio
Nelson as a present. With the following message
"My Lord, Herewith I send you a Coffin made of part of
L'Orient's Main mast, that when you are tired of this
Life you may be buried in one of your own Trophies - but
may that period be far distant, is the sincere wish of
your obedient and much obliged servant".
Nelson is said to have been so pleased
with the macabre gift that he kept it with him at all
times. When Nelson died he was taken on shore in the
wooden coffin and after lying in state at the naval
hospital at Greenwich was eventually buried in it.
Thousands of people lined the streets of London as
Nelsons funeral car bearing the wooden coffin made its
way to St. Pauls Cathedral. The coffin containing the
remains of 'England's hero' is enclosed within a lead
casing in a sarcophagus inside a crypt at the Cathedral.
A Faux Pas
I don't know how much truth there is attached to this
account but will relay it nevertheless. During one of
his many sea battles, Nelson had to dinner on board his
ship, seven of the surviving captured French captains.
All of these officers had been wounded. Nelson, who as
we all know was half blind from the injury to his eye,
without thinking, offered a case of tooth-picks to one
of the Frenchmen, who had lost most of his teeth to a
musket ball. Realising his error, the slightly flustered
Nelson attempted to detract from this faux pas and
offered his snuff-box to the French captain on his
right, who had unfortunately lost his nose.
Find out about the monument erected to
in Great Yarmouth
Pictures below - Horatio Nelson - Nelson's mother
Catherine Suckling - Frances Nisbet his wife - Lady
Hamilton his mistress.