Monuments and memorials to Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was a British admiral famous for his participation in the Napoleonic Wars, most notably in the Battle of Trafalgar, during which he was killed. He was responsible for several famous victories that helped to secure British control of the seas, both securing Britain from French invasion and frustrating Napoleon's imperial ambitions. After his death during his defeat of the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, there was a public outpouring of grief. Nelson was accorded a state funeral and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

The Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green, erected in 1806, is claimed to be the first civic monument in Britain to Nelson's victories.

A number of monuments and memorials were constructed across the country to honour his memory. The period of British dominance of the seas that his victories were considered to have ushered in led to a continued drive to create monuments in his name across the British Empire. These have taken many forms.

Sited in the UK

Lord Nelson atop Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

The monumental Nelson's Column (built in 1840s) and the surrounding Trafalgar Square are notable locations in London to this day, and Nelson's tomb can be found in the south transept of St Paul's Cathedral. There are three great collections of items that belonged to him, or were made to commemorate him that are still visible today: at the Royal Naval Museum in HMNB Portsmouth, at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and in the Lloyd's building in the heart of London.

The first large monument to Nelson was the 43.5 m (143 ft) tall Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green erected less than a year after his death in 1806. The Nelson Monument in Edinburgh was later constructed atop Calton Hill in Edinburgh between 1807 and 1816. The first monument in the British Empire to be funded by popular subscription was Nelson's Column, Montreal, on August 17, 1809. In October 1809, the first monument to be funded by public subscription in Great Britain was erected in Birmingham. The statue of Nelson in Birmingham was the first to be erected in Nelson's honour in Great Britain. It was sculpted by Richard Westmacott and is currently a Grade II* listed building. Westmacott also sculpted memorials in Liverpool, which is also Grade II*, and Bridgetown, Barbados. The Liverpool monument is a depiction of a goddess handing a naked Nelson the crowns of victory while a sinister, skeletal figure of Death clutches at his breast. Four despondent French prisoners-in-chains sit at the base.

The officers and men who fought at Trafalgar erected a memorial column to the north of Portsmouth atop Portsdown Hill. The 36.5 m (120 ft) high obelisk features the inscription "Consecrated to the memory of Viscount Lord Nelson. By the zealous attachment of all those who fought at Trafalgar to perpetuate his triumph and their regret 1805. Foundation stone laid July 1807".

The 44 m (144 ft) tall columnar Monument in Great Yarmouth to Nelson was started before his death but only completed in 1819. Properly called the Norfolk Naval Pillar, it is generally known as the "Britannia Monument" as it is topped by the martial female personification of the UK rather than a statue of Nelson; a statue of Nelson is, however, in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral alongside the other Napoleonic hero, the Duke of Wellington, near the school he attended. Another columnar monument is situated on Castle Geen, Hereford. Nelson was made a freeman of the city in 1802, and he reportedly spent a lot of time at Ross-on-Wye. The column was erected in 1809, four years after Nelson's death, but has no statue at the top as there wasn't enough money left to commission one.[1]

One of the most unusual monuments was constructed on Salisbury Plain, within cannon shot of Stonehenge, on land then owned by the Marquess of Queensberry. The monument consists of a series of clumps of trees in otherwise arable farmland. Known as the Nile Clumps they have been arranged to represent the positioning of French and British ships at the Battle of the Nile, considered as Nelson's greatest tactical victory. Some clumps still survive, and work is underway to replant some of those that have "sunk". They stand on land owned by the National Trust, forming part of the Stonehenge Landscape estate.

Britannia Bridge with memorial in foreground

There is also a memorial to Nelson on the banks of the Menai Strait in North Wales. This memorial stands at an out-of-the-way site on the shore below Plas Llanfair, in Llanfairpwll on the Anglesey shore. It was created by Admiral Lord Clarence Paget, who lived in the mansion and who was an enthusiastic amateur sculptor. The monument is made of stone, inscribed with the words "Nelson" and "Fell at Trafalgar 1805. England expects that every man will do his duty". The view from this position is of the Menai Strait, which Nelson was reputed to have described as "one of the most treacherous stretches of sea in the world."[2] There is also the Nelson memorial in Swarland, Northumberland which was raised as a private memorial of Nelson by his friend and sometime agent, Alexander Davison.[3] Davidson also planted trees just to the west of the obelisk to represent the coastline of the Nile Delta and some of the ships that took part in the Battle of the Nile.

A small memorial to Nelson is located in the small County Antrim town of Dervock, Northern Ireland. In the Allen Memorial Hall belonging to St Coleman’s Church of Ireland, a large stained glass triptych depicts the moment on the poop deck of the Victory when Nelson ordered the flying of the ‘England Expects’ signal just before the Battle of Trafalgar. The connection with Dervock is seen in the panel portraying the red-jacketed Captain William Adair, from Ballymena, in County Antrim, the commander of the marine force on the Victory, who was to die alongside Nelson. A smaller window in the hall shows the Victory locked in conflict with the French ship Redoubtable.[4]

Although his country house at Merton no longer exists and his estate was broken up and built over, Nelson's association with the area is commemorated in the names of a number of local roads, a trading estate on part of his former lands and Nelson Hospital in Merton Park. Nelson's funerary hatchment is displayed at St. Mary's Church of England, also in Merton Park, London SW19. There is also a Nelson's Monument on Birchen Edge, in England's Peak District national park.

In 1995, in honour of Nelson, The Admiral Lord Nelson School was built in Portsmouth. The school has established and maintains strong links with the Royal Navy and was involved in the bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar.

There are a hundred and ninety-nine street names in the U.K. today that refer to Nelson's final and possibly greatest victory, Trafalgar.[5] Throughout October, Trafalgar Night Dinners are held in Royal Navy ships and establishments. After the Loyal Toast, there is always a toast drunk to Nelson's "Immortal Memory".[6]

Sites overseas

Nelson Statue, Bridgetown, Barbados

Several places overseas have been named after Nelson. The city of Nelson, New Zealand bears his name as well as Nelson Island on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, Canada. There is also Nelson's Island, in Aboukir Bay, the site of Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile.

Two pillars were erected to Nelson in cities in Montreal and Dublin, both by public subscription in the second half of 1809. Nelson's Pillar in Dublin survived controversy and rebellion and Ireland’s exit from the United Kingdom in 1922, but it was destroyed by a bomb planted by former IRA men in 1966, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.[4] Nelson's Column, Montreal is located in Montreal, Quebec (where Nelson had reportedly fallen in love with a young woman). The monument was begun in 1808 and erected in 1809. It is located in Place Jacques-Cartier, which was a marketplace at the time. As the Dublin monument is no longer extant it is the oldest surviving monument to Nelson. Subscribers for the monument included both English and French, since the French Revolution was popular with neither. The monument is located in Old Montreal (Vieux Montréal). It has carved scenes from Nelson's career around the base and the statue on top was claimed to be the oldest public statue of Nelson in the world. It was removed due to excessive weathering and has been placed in the Montreal History Centre.

A small monument was erected to Nelson in County Cork, Ireland. It is claimed that it was erected within four days of the news of the admiral’s death reaching London on 6 November 1805. The monument consisted of a large rough stone arch on a hilltop near Castletownshend. It was destroyed 150 years later by Irish republicans. This Nelson Arch, as it was known, was the work of Captain Joshua Rowley Watson RN, then commander of the Sea Fencibles based in Castletownshend. One of the few surviving images of the arch dates from 1896. It is a photograph reproduced in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, and shows the arch largely intact, but with vegetation sprouting from it. The first mention of politically motivated damage to the arch comes in 1920, when according to some accounts it was ‘destroyed’ during the War of Independence, and re-erected two years later. It was again attacked in 1966, this time so seriously that the Townshend family, who whose land it stood, could do little more than erect a much smaller version from the wreckage. That in turn was demolished in 1976.[7]

On the island of Nevis, West Indies, where Nelson met and married Frances Nisbet, there are two place names: Nelson's Spring and Nelson's Lookout.

On the island of Antigua, West Indies, there is a house at Nelson's Dockyard that is historically taught to be Nelson's house while he was stationed in the Caribbean.

On 28 October 2005, a statue of Nelson was unveiled in Gibraltar 200 years after Nelson's death.

In 1813,[8] a statue (pictured) was erected in Bridgetown, Barbados, in what was known as Trafalgar Square, (now renamed National Heroes' Square) in recognition of Nelson's bravery and as a tribute to his honour within the British Empire. This statue was sculpted from bronze by Sir Richard Westmacott and is considered by many as an exact likeness to the man himself. This statue was erected some 27 years before another one of the same likeness was erected in London.


  1. "Why Nelson has a column in Hereford". BBC. 2005-10-18. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  2. "Lord Nelson Memorial, Anglesey". Discover Anglesey's Heritage. 2006-01-03. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  3. "Maritime Memorials List ,M4322". National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  4. 1 2 Dublin’s Fallen Hero:The Long Life and Sudden Death of Nelson’s Pillar (1809-1966) ISBN 978-0957256415, by Dennis Kennedy. Ormeau Books, Belfast 2013.
  5. U.K. Streetmap
  6. White, Colin (2002). The Nelson Encyclopaedia. Park House, Russell Gardens, London.: Chatham Publishing, Lionel Leventhal Limited. p. 48. ISBN 1-86176-253-4.
  7. Dublin’s Fallen Hero:The Long Life and Sudden Death of Nelson’s Pillar (1809-1966) ISBN 978-0957256415, by Dennis Kennedy. Ormeau Books, Belfast 2013.
  8. "Places of Interest". Government of Barbados. Retrieved 26 July 2013.


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