Nelson & Norfolk

Nelson & Norfolk
 29 July – 1 October 2017

“I am myself a Norfolk man”

To the Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson

A one-off exhibition curated by
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery

Includes an early French Tricolour Ensign captured from French warship Le Généreux in 1800

Together with Nelson’s undress coat and hat worn at the Battle of the Nile and reunited for the first time for more than 100 years, plus many other unique objects never before seen together.

Admiral Lord Nelson (1758 –1805) and his affection for his native county of Norfolk is the subject of a major exhibition Nelson & Norfolk, which opens at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery on 29 July until 1 October 2017.

The exhibition presents some of the most extraordinary and potent objects connected to Nelson, from his boyhood in Norfolk to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The undisputed centerpiece is the highly important, early French Tricolour – the monumental Ensign (or flag) of the French warship Le Généreux, which took part in the Battle of the Nile in 1798. A British victory, the battle sealed Nelson’s reputation as England’s greatest hero.

Although Le Généreux was one of only two ships of the line from the French fleet to escape this historic battle, it was subsequently captured, on 18 February 1800 by Nelson’s flag captain Sir Edward Berry, on board the HMS Foudroyant.

When the huge Ensign of Le Généreux was “struck”, that is removed from the flagpole at the rear of the ship, and surrendered to Sir Edward Berry, it was immediately despatched as a gift to the City of Norwich. One of the largest (it measures 16m x 8.3m – roughly the size of a tennis-court) and most iconic objects connected to Norfolk’s most famous son, Admiral Lord Nelson, this is the first time this historic object has been on public display for more than a century.

A Just Giving fundraising project has been launched in a bid to raise £5,000 towards the £40,000 cost of preserving the exhibition’s centrepiece and to provide accessible storage, which will allow it to be enjoyed by visitors to other venues and also to be featured in a proposed permanent display in Norwich. (Please see separate release).

Ruth Battersby Tooke, Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles at Norwich Castle, said: “The exhibition is built around key objects such as this emblematic ensign, with its remarkable history. In explaining the story of the ensign, together with those of each of the other important exhibits, we are providing insights into Nelson and his times, the cult of his personality and the way he has been lionised and commemorated. The exhibition’s main themes are Nelson’s extraordinary legacy, his reputation and the ongoing nature of his ‘Immortal Memory’.”

The exhibition will be divided into several sections each one examining a key part or element of Nelson’s life and career starting with his birth and early years in his beloved home county of Norfolk. The Norfolk section will include the Burnham Thorpe Parish Register, the village where Nelson was born, which is annotated in the margin by Nelson’s father, rector of the parish, with dates of significant milestones and naval victories. The register will be displayed alongside the poignant “Dear, dear Burnham letter” written by Nelson in 1804. Also of interest is a Freedom Box, presented to Nelson by the Corporation of Thetford following the decision to bestow upon him the Freedom of the town in 1798.

Personalia from Strangers’ Hall in Norwich include a lock of Nelson’s hair, owned originally by Captain Hardy and given to Norwich Museums in 1847, a napkin bearing the monogram of NB for Nelson Duke of Bronte, an honour conferred to him after the Battle of the Nile, as well as scraps of the British Ensign and sailcloth from HMS Victory. Collectively these diverse objects all illustrate Nelson’s early life and the affection for his home county.

Other sections will focus on The Battle of the Nile, which took place on 1 August 1798, Naples and Emma, Nelson’s Death, and finally his Funeral.

Extremely apt to be exhibited together with the Ensign from Le Généreux is Nelson’s famous coat, which he wore at the Battle of the Nile kindly loaned by the National Maritime Museum Greenwich. Made in wool and linen with large brass buttons and gold alloy braiding, this is a typical flag officer’s undress coat of the period. The coat also gives an indication as to how slight Nelson was. Excitingly the hat, which Nelson wore at this decisive battle, is also on display. This is the first time that the coat and hat have been reunited since 1891.

The drama of the final moments of this historic Battle of the Nile are vividly depicted in a dramatic oil painting by artist Thomas Whitcombe. Amidst the smoke from cannons and fires, the magnificent ships are shown with their sails billowing and respective ensigns flying, the foreground littered with debris of wrecked ships and lifeboats filled with sailors lucky to have escaped alive. The painting was executed in 1799 a year after the Battle of the Nile took place.

No exhibition about Nelson can avoid the subject of his time in Naples, where he met the extraordinary Emma Hamilton, who became the love of his life. Particularly poignant is a charming locket (in the collection of Norwich Castle) that contains two different locks of hair. The high quality of the workmanship suggests that it was probably a private commission and there is a possibility that the hair enclosed is that of Nelson and Emma Hamilton, making this a hugely romantic and enigmatic object.  Also in this section is the border of a dress embellished in honour of Lord Nelson and worn by Emma Hamilton at Palermo, circa 1799, together with a touching picture embroidered in silk of Nelson and his beloved Emma.

Nelson’s death is illustrated by the painting “The Apotheosis of Nelson” on loan from the National Maritime Museum painted by Scott Pierre Nicolas Legrand circa 1805-18.  It clearly conveys the level of hero-worship that Nelson had inspired during his life-time and which was set to continue for generations to come. This highly romantic painting depicts a deified Nelson achieving immortality as he ascends up to the gods on Mount Olympus, while his sailors grieve for him on the decks of the ship below.

Nelson’s funeral resulted in a public demonstration of grief on a national scale. The dramatic black velvet drape from Nelson’s funeral car, together with the painted silk hatchment, both used at his funeral, have not been seen together since the funeral car was dismantled circa 1826.

There is also a uniform worn by a Greenwich Volunteer who guarded Nelson’s coffin during his two-day lying-in-state, a model of the funeral barge made by a French prisoner of war at Norman Cross internment camp, a picture on glass showing Lord Nelson Lying in State by J. Hinton and additional extensive Nelson funeral memorabilia.

Presiding over the exhibition, as a whole, is the large, compelling portrait in oils of Nelson by the artist William Beechey, commissioned by the City of Norwich and completed in 1801.  The portrait features another noteworthy exhibit, namely the sword surrendered to Nelson by the Spanish Admiral Xavier Winthuysen after the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797. When two Spanish ships, the San Nicolas and the San Josef, became entangled Nelson was able to board one then the other. On the deck of the San Josef, Nelson received the surrendered swords of the Spanish, including this one. Nelson’s naval officer’s hat, depicted prominently in the portrait and given to the artist William Beechey by Nelson after he sat for the famous portrait, adds further human interest.

Complementing the important loans from major national museums and institutions around the country are additional fascinating and unique objects drawn from Norfolk Museums Service’s own Nelson archives, as well as other local collections in the county including those of Norwich Social History, Fine and Decorative Art, the Great Yarmouth Sailors’ Home, as well as Nelson’s schools; The Norwich School and Paston College. Numerous items have also been generously loaned by private collectors.

Nelson & Norfolk is not intended to be a chronology of the life and times of Nelson illustrated by objects. Instead this exhibition takes its starting point and narrative from the objects themselves. In bringing together so much authentic material, the exhibition reflects the ways in which Nelson has been represented in imagery and how his remarkable life story has been told through objects. Likewise a strong cohesive thread is the affection that Nelson had for the county that ‘gave him birth’ and Norfolk’s immeasurable pride in its most famous son. This is the first time that these objects have ever been presented together in one exhibition.

The exhibition is timely in that coincides with the 200th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Nelson memorial in Great Yarmouth, the county’s most significant memorial to its local hero. It also follows on from the recent exhibition Emma Hamilton: Seduction & Celebrity at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich (November 2016 to 17 April, 2017).

Nelson & Norfolk

Nelson & Norfolk 

Saturday 29 July 2017 to Sunday 1 October 2017

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery 

Castle Hill, Norwich NR1 3JU

Tel. +44 (0)1603 495897

Opening Times:
Mon-Sat: from 10am–5pm
Sun: 1–5pm 

Open Bank Holidays (hours as above). Last admission half an hour before closing.

Admissions: Castle Ticket (including Special Exhibitions):

Adult: £9.15; Concession*: £8.70; Child (4-18) £7.30

Family: 2 adults + all children:  £31.10; Family: 1 adult + all children:  £23.30

Special Exhibitions Ticket only

Norfolk and Nelson, 29 July – 1 October 2017

Adults: £6.00; Concession*: £5.70; Child (4-18 yrs): £4.80

Pop in for £2: one hour tickets available every day, one hour before closing and between 12

noon & 1pm Monday to Friday, during school terms. Last entry 4.30pm.

Museums Pass holders, Friends of Norwich Museums and under 4s free.

*Visitors with disabilities, unwaged, over 65s, in full time education.

Visitors with disabilities may bring one companion in free.

Admission to the shop, cafe and Rotunda information desk is free.

Discounts: Discounts for groups: ring 01603 495897 / 493636 for details. Holders of Go 4Less Cards and district leisure cards can visit for the discounted price of £6.90.

If you travel by Park & Ride show your bus ticket (purchased the same day) to get admission for up to 5 people for just £6.90 each.

Related events: The exhibition will be supported by a wide-ranging events programme including talks, guided tours of the exhibition and special event days.

Shop: The Castle Shop has a wonderful selection of gifts, toys, books and cards.

Café: Norwich Castle Café serves a delicious range of hot and cold snacks, drinks and meals. There are special menus for groups.

How to get there: Park and Ride, 0344 800 8020

Public Transport, Traveline, 0871 200 2233

Public Car Parks nearby: Castle Mall, SAT NAV: NR1 3JQ (Norwich Castle) or St Andrews,

SAT NAV: NR2 4PT (Norwich University of the Arts)

Parking for visitors with disabilities, e-mail [email protected], 01603 493625

Access: Most of the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is accessible to users of mobility

scooters and wheelchairs. The venues at NUA and the Forum are fully accessible.

Exhibition sponsors

The headline sponsors of Norfolk & Nelson are Woodforde’s brewery. Like Nelson, Woodforde’s beers were born and raised in Norfolk where Woodforde’s resides as the county’s largest Brewer enjoying over 35 years of giving people what they love; great tasting beer.

“It is an absolute privilege to be partnering with the Castle Museum for this once in a lifetime opportunity to uncover more about our very own local hero; Nelson. This will be a great opportunity for both old and young, local as well as international visitors to really explore and understand more about such a great historical figure and the journey he himself went on to achieve some of the most notable victories in British history.” – Rupert Farquharson, Managing Director, Woodforde’s Brewery.

The exhibition is also sponsored by Ben Burgess & Co., East Anglia’s premier agricultural, construction & grounds care equipment retailer.

Ben Burgess & Co. has been serving the local farming community since 1931 and has supplied grounds care equipment since 1962. As one of two original John Deere dealers since the brand entered the UK market in 1965, Ben Burgess & Co. is also the supplier of several other leading manufacturers in the agricultural, construction and grounds care industries. We have six depots throughout East Anglia with specialist sales, parts, service and hire teams. We also specialise in selling quality used machinery across the UK or for export worldwide.

“Ben Burgess (1902 – 2000) was a keen collector of Nelson memorabilia and founded the Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth, home to his lifetime collection. As a company, we are proud of our founder and felt the opportunity to support and be involved with this project was one we couldn’t refuse. We are very much looking forward to the exhibition opening in July.” – Ben Turner, Managing Director and grandson of Ben Burgess.

About Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté KB:

Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758 in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk. He was educated at Paston Grammar School, North Walsham as well as King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Norwich. 

Nelson began his naval career at the age of 13 on 1 January 1771. 

On 11 March 1787 Nelson marries Frances “Fanny” Nisbet, on the island of Nevis. They never divorced.

1798 meets Emma Hamilton in Naples, the start of their love story.  Their daughter Horatia was born in 1801. She died in 1881.

Key Naval battles:

Battle of Cape St Vincent, 1797

Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1797 – Nelson wounded and loses most of his right arm

The Battle of the Nile, 1798

The Battle of Copenhagen, 1801

Battle of Trafalgar 1805 which resulted in Nelson’s death. Nelson is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, London .

Aside from the Great Yarmouth memorial, the most iconic monument to Nelson’s memory is the creation of London’s Trafalgar Square in 1835 with its centrepiece, Nelson’s Column, finished in 1843

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is part of Norfolk Museums Service, a multi-award winning service comprising ten museums and a study centre. It is one of only 21 Major Partner Museums in the country receiving substantial revenue investment from Arts Council England. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants.

Royal Museums Greenwich incorporates the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the 17th-Century Queen’s House and Cutty Sark. Royal Museums Greenwich works to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. This unique collection of museums and heritage buildings, which form a key part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, welcomes over two and a half million British and international visitors a year and is also a major centre of education and research.



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