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Portfolio-45634-Horatio Nelson

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					                                     Horatio Nelson: A Norfolk Hero

                                                            by Zoe King
October 2005 saw the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and Lord
Nelson's death following his victory over the combined naval forces of the
French and the Spanish. England is in the grip of Nelson fever, with events
planned across the country, but it's in humble surroundings in Norfolk that the
story began...


As the birthplace of a man second only to Shakespeare in 'The Greatest Ever
Englishman' stakes, the village of Burnham Thorpe in North Norfolk wears its
fame quietly. The man in question, Horatio Nelson, was born on 29 September
1758 to the village parson and his wife. October 21 2005 marks the 200th
Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar -- and of course the death of Admiral
Nelson on his flagship, Victory -- but though the village welcomes visitors, it
does so in restrained fashion. The fact that it is so hidden away in the narrow
lanes has probably been its saving grace, so even in this Anniversary year,
visitors are relatively few. That's good news for those who do come, as they
can spend as much time as they wish wandering around the church and the
surrounding lanes in search of the village hero.


Although record has it that Horatio, or Horace as he preferred to be called, was
born in the Parsonage House for All Saint's Church where his father was rector,
locals still repeat the rumour that he was actually born in the fine brick and flint
barn which runs adjacent to the village inn. It is said that his mother, Catherine
Suckling, ventured out on a pony cart, and was unable to manage the
additional half mile or so back to the vicarage before young Horace put in an
appearance, seven weeks prematurely. Even if the story isn't true, the barn is
a rare sight indeed and well worth seeing.




The church itself, which stands in a quiet spot away from the main village, dates to the 13th century and is surrounded by hummocky
fields, the result it is thought of villagers firing their houses during the Black Death. A pretty church with some outstanding chequerwork
flints on its eastern face, All Saint's is steeped in Nelson history both inside and out. Beyond the door, which bears the notice: 'All who
enter of your charity pray latch these doors lest a bird enter and die of thirst', visitors can see the Purbeck marble font in which Horatio
was baptised within hours of his birth. (He was very weak and not expected to live.)
Also worth seeing are the rood cross and lectern, both made from timber brought from HMS Victory, and the contemporary account of
Nelson's astonishing state funeral. This was held not in Burnham Thorpe, as he had wished, but in London, by decree of King George III.
Other naval artefacts include the crest of the Second World War battleship, HMS Nelson, whose white ensigns are in the western arch of
the tower.


                                                 Just in front of the altar can be seen the graves of Nelson's parents; his mother died
                                                 when Horatio was just nine years old, having, according to Nelson's sister Susannah,
                                                 'bred herself to death'. His father died in 1802, and on the north chancel wall above his
                                                 grave, a bust of his victorious son looks down. A wander around the churchyard outside
                                                 will reveal the graves of further members of Nelson's family, including brothers Maurice,
                                                 Edmund, Suckling (named for his mother's family) and George, and sister Susannah.


                                                 Opposite the village green is The Lord Nelson public house, which was renamed in honour
                                                 of the hero in 1807, having formerly been named The Plough. Nelson, then a young
                                                 captain, gave a farewell dinner at the inn before leaving to take up command of the
                                                 Agamemnon in February 1793. It is thought he was a regular visitor to the pub, and used
                                                 the upstairs room to meet his crew before setting sail. The inn has plenty of charm,
                                                 featuring original settles and decidedly uneven stone floors, and appears more or less
                                                 untouched since Nelson's time. It is full of artefacts, offering a selection of books and
                                                 other things for sale. It even serves up its own 'Nelson's Blood', 'a unique blend of 100
                                                 proof Navy Rum with Herbs and Spices' made to a secret recipe, and offered to
                                                 commemorate the return voyage from Spain of Nelson's body.


                                                 Perhaps half a mile beyond the village is the lane leading to the
                                                 site of Nelson's 'official' birthplace, the Parsonage House, which
                                                 somewhat unaccountably was demolished three years before
                                                 Nelson's death. It is still possible to see the frigate-shaped pond
                                                 Nelson dug out in the garden, and a small plaque marks the outer
                                                 wall, though it is barely readable now.


                                                As a boy, Horatio was briefly educated at Norwich's Royal
                                                Grammar School, but following the death of his mother in 1768,
                                                he and his brother William were transferred to The Paston School,
                                                North Walsham, which had a growing reputation as the best
                                                school in Norfolk. The headmaster was one John Price Jones, who
held court over 60 boarders, charges for whom were '£18 per year for board and education, an entrance fee of
two guineas, and thirty shillings per year for washing'.


In addition to 'a firm grounding in Latin and Greek', it is said the young Horatio took sailing lessons while at
Paston, on nearby Barton Broad. The fact that his sister Catherine lived at Barton Hall with her husband George
Matcham gives credence to this story, as it is known that 'Little Horace' visited relatives while at school. It has to
be said though that even this early exposure to sailing didn't prevent the seasickness from which he famously suffered throughout his
naval career.


Relics from Nelson's schooldays are still held at the Paston, which is marking the bi-centenary with its own exhibition. Trafalgar 200:
Nelson, Paston and North Walsham runs until 23 October 2005. Visitors will be offered a rare opportunity to view the schoolroom where
Nelson was educated, and to see the private collection. The school is now known as Paston College, and can be found on Grammar
School Road in the town.


                                                         Following the death of Nelson's mother, his uncle, Maurice Suckling, promised
                                                         that he would get one of the Nelson sons started on a naval career when the
                                                         time came. 'Little Horace' didn't forget that promise, and when the Falklands
                                                         Crisis of 1770 arose, he saw it as an opportunity. He begged his brother
                                                         William to write to their father, asking him to contact Maurice about taking him
                                                         to sea. His uncle was dubious, given that Horace was such a sickly child, but
                                                         eventually he agreed, and the boy was signed up to the Navy on New Year's
                                                         Day, 1771.


                                                         Throughout the years, Nelson remained devoted to his 'beloved Burnham' and
                                                         returned to live there with his new wife, Fanny, whom he met in Antigua in
                                                         1785. He lived there, unemployed and restless, for five years before being
                                                         appointed captain of Agamemnon in 1793, following the revolutionary French
                                                         government's declaration of war on Great Britain. That posting marked the
                                                         turning point in the Captain's career, and he began to establish himself as a
                                                         brave and innovative commander. But despite his travels, he did not forget his
                                                         native Norfolk, and returned to Great Yarmouth as a newly promoted Vice
                                                         Admiral in March, 1801. Great Yarmouth paid its own homage to Nelson by
                                                         erecting the first 'Nelson's Column' in 1819, predating the Trafalgar Square
                                                         column by over 20 years. The column is topped not by Nelson, but by
                                                         Britannia, who stands gazing towards the North-West, and Burnham Thorpe,
                                                         birthplace of her greatest naval hero.

				
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posted:12/5/2011
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