How Admiral Lord Nelson is remembered in Norfolk's towns and villages
PUBLISHED: 10:17 30 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 20 October 2019
He was a Norfolk man who "gloried in being so" But how is the county's favourite son remembered on its town and village signs? Dr Anrew Tullett looks at Nelson's legacy to mark the admiral's 261st birthday.
The village and town signs at Burnham Thorpe, North Walsham and Downham Market all feature references to Lord Horatio Nelson.
Between them they celebrate his birth, his childhood and the naval campaigns that made him famous in his own lifetime.
The sign at Burnham Thorpe was presented to the village by the Royal Navy.
It declares that the village was "the birthplace of Horatio Nelson 29th September 1758." Nelson is without doubt Burnham Thorpe's most famous son, and he is perhaps the Royal Navy's most famous Admiral.
As a child, Nelson lived at the parsonage shown on the sign. The building was demolished not long after his father died, on 26th April 1802. Rev. Edmund Nelson had been Rector of All Saints Church from 1755.
Horatio Nelson was baptised in this church, which still stands in the village. It now contains several memorials to Lord Nelson.
These include an oak lectern donated by the Lords of the Admiralty in the 1880s (made of wood from one of Nelson's ships, H.M.S. Victory) and a bust of Nelson erected by the London Society of the East Anglians in 1905 to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The names of some of the famous battles that Nelson took part in, and the ships on which he served, are also shown on the sign at Burnham Thorpe.
The Battle of the Nile (August 1-3 1798 on HMS Vanguard), the Battle of Copenhagen (April 2, 1801 on HMS Elephant) and the Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805 on HMS Victory) are all represented.
The Battle of Trafalgar was a success, but it was during this that Nelson was struck by a French musketeer's bullet. It was removed by Surgeon William Beatty during the autopsy on Nelson's body.
The bullet was set into a locket which Beatty wore until his own death, whereupon it was presented to Queen Victoria.
The bullet, along with many other unique artefacts, was on public display during the 'Nelson & Norfolk' exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum in 2017.
Lord Nelson is depicted as a child on the sign at Downham Market. The claim that Nelson attended a school here is said to derive from an account given to The Norfolk Archaeological Society written by Captain George Manby (whose eponymous invention, the Manby Mortar, is represented on the village sign at Hilgay).
In the article Captain Manby states that he remembered Nelson from his time at school and recalled Nelson making paper boats and sailing them down the waste water gully from the town pump.
There is little corroborative evidence to support Manby's story.
Captain Manby was Nelson's junior by several years and it is known that Nelson left school for the Navy at the age of twelve. What is certain, however, is that Lord Nelson attended Paston Grammar School in North Walsham.
Both these illustrious Norfolk names, Nelson and Paston, appear together on one of the mosaics on the base of the town sign at North Walsham.
Sir William Paston took advantage of the Great Fire of North Walsham in 1600 to purchase newly available land opposite St. Nicholas's Church. On this site he built a school, known as the Paston School, the statutes of which date from 1604. The school still exists today, operating as a sixth form college.
There have been many additions and alterations since the school was first established, although some buildings dating from 1765 still exist. These would have been familiar to Horatio Nelson who was a boarder here between 1768 and 1771 along with his older brother William. Nelson himself appears on North Walsham's sign opposite a ship, both depicted as silhouettes.
-Dr Tullett, from Lakenham, researched just about all of Norfolk's 500-plus town and village signs as part of his Signs of a Norfolk Summer project. He now gives presentations on the topic, and anyone looking for a speaker can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.