June 13, 2016

Lord Nelson tall ship in Greenwich

Lord Nelson tall ship seen passing Greenwich on May 26th, 2016

ACCESSIBLE tall ship Lord Nelson has sailed past maritime Greenwich on a visit to the capital.

The vessel, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, was in London last month and was seen passing the Old Royal Naval College where, as Greenwich Hospital, Nelson recuperated following the loss of his arm.

Including the bowsprit, the ship is just a shade under 55 metres long and carries a crew of mixed ability sailors and has disabled access throughout including for wheelchair users.

While Lord Nelson was in London, the ship was moored at HMS President and received a visit from the Duke of York to help mark the anniversary.

October 21, 2015

Flag from Battle of Trafalgar goes on display at the National Maritime Museum

The Selling Flag on display in Nelson, Navy, Nation Gallery with Textiles Consrvator Nicola Yates and her Intern and Curator, Quintin Colville
Photo © National Maritime Museum

A RARE Union flag that was flown at the Battle of Trafalgar is joining the National Maritime Museum’s Nelson Gallery for the first time to mark Trafalgar Day.

The flag was flown from HMS Minotaur at Trafalgar in 1805 and taken back to Selling in Kent, near Faversham, by the Master’s Mate, Stephen Hilton.

Hilton died in 1872 and the flag was given to St Mary’s Selling by his descendants in the 1930s where it hung in the church’s Hilton Chapel until 1994 alongside an Austrian ensign captured from a Spanish warship at Trafalgar. The flags were later moved to the Canterbury Cathedral Treasury and have now both been acquired by the National Maritime Museum. 

Since the acquisition of the Minotaur’s Union flag, the museum’s conservators have repaired a number of small holes and given it a thorough clean and now, 210 years since the Battle of Trafalgar, it goes on display from today at the dedicated Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery at the National Maritime Museum.

The only other known surviving Union flag from Trafalgar was flown from HMS Spartiate and sold at auction in 2009 to a private collector for £384,000.

October 15, 2015

Trafalgar Day 2015 at East Greenwich Pleasaunce

Thank you to Sue from the Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce for details of this year’s Trafalgar Day event.

On Saturday 24th October there will be a Trafalgar Day Act of Remembrance which will take place at 12 noon at the memorial plaque, to which all are welcome.

The remains of some of those who died in the battle of Trafalgar, 210 years ago, are buried here in the Pleasaunce so it is an appropriate place to hold this event. The Church of England, East Greenwich Ministry Team will preside over the service.

The Salvation Army band will provide the music and standard bearers from the Royal Naval Association and the Deptford and Greenwich Sea Cadets will parade. Wreaths will be laid by the Mayor of Greenwich and the deputy Lord Lieutenant and representatives from the WRNS. Many from the local Royal Naval Association including residents from the Trafalgar Quarters will attend this event which is supported by our Friends Group.

The Revd. Margaret Cave, our local team rector commented on the event, “We are delighted that the Remembrance Service will continue despite the sad death earlier this year of ex-naval service man Terry Stacey who organised this event for many years.”

October 5, 2015

ORNC to show That Hamilton Woman for Trafalgar Day

The classic cinematic depiction of Nelson’s life starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier will be shown at the Old Royal Naval College on October 21st.

The Trafalgar Day screening of the film, which tells Nelson’s story through the memoir of Emma Hamilton, will be introduced by Nelson expert and Greenwich Historical Society president, Anthony Cross.

The Alexander Korda-directed movie was released in 1941 and was reported to be Winston Churchill’s favourite film. It will be shown in the King William Lecture theatre (302) at 6.30pm on October 21st – tickets cost £5 and include a complimentary glass of wine afterwards.

Book tickets for the Trafalgar Day screening of That Hamilton Woman

Earlier in the day, there will also be free talks about Nelson.

June 12, 2015

Nelson’s Band of Brothers is out now

A new book telling the personal stories of Nelson’s Band of Brothers is out now.

Edited by Captain Peter Hore, a former Greenwich resident, and published by Seaforth Publishing, the hardback title explores the lives on Nelson’s captains.

Two of the entries in the book have been contributed by Anthony Cross from the Warwick Leadlay Gallery in Greenwich. Anthony is, of course, also the President of Greenwich Historical Society.

Brand new photography of the final resting place of many of the captains has been commissioned, some of which was taken in Greenwich such as at the mausoleum where Admiral Hardy is buried.

Nelson’s Band of Brothers: Lives and Memorials has been produced in association with the 1805 Club.

Click here to buy Nelson’s Band of Brothers 

March 13, 2015

Nelson’s Red Nose Day

AROUND about the ninety-ninth anniversary of the death of Lord Nelson, in October 1904, an incident occurred in Greenwich which was described by the press as an “outrage”.

It was an act of vandalism at the Naval College that was so foul, the Kentish Mercury described it as a “senseless joke” which altogether exceeded “the limits of decency.”

But what was this long-forgotten offence that caused such colourful disgust?

In 1851, a bust of Lord Nelson had been presented to Greenwich Hospital by Lady Chantrey, the widow of its sculptor, Sir Frances Chantrey. It was a bronze version of a marble bust that had been commissioned from Chantrey by King William IV.

After spending several decades in the Painted Hall which housed the National Gallery of Naval Art, the bust was placed in the courtyard of the then Royal Naval College facing the river.

One morning, early in October 1904, a shocking discovery was made by a workman: the nose of England’s immortal hero had been painted bright red.

Reconstruction of Nelson's bust with a red nose

Admiral of the red (nose): Artist’s impression of Nelson’s bust

Brazenly standing next to the bust was a tin of red paint and a paint brush but the architect of Horatio’s humiliation was no where to be found.

The Times reported that “all cadets now studying at the college were paraded, and were addressed by the president on the wantonness of the outrage.”

Read the Kentish Mercury’s report on the incident


All of the cadets denied any knowledge of the disfigurement and the culprit who left Nelson red-faced was not traced by the authorities.

The paint daubed on Nelson’s face in the act of nasal mischief was “removed with considerable difficulty,” added The Times.

With the paint gone and Nelson’s dignity restored, the bust remained in situ for almost another thirty years.

In 1933, the bust was moved from the Naval College (pictured below) while the Greenwich Night Pageant took place.

Rather than be returned to the courtyard after, it was instead placed in the grounds of a Greenwich Hospital building which was very shortly to become the National Maritime Museum – it has remained there ever since.

Chantrey’s bust of Nelson is one of the things to see on the Nelson in Greenwich trail.

As today is Red Nose Day, you can find out more about donating here.

March 2, 2015

Public flock to see Nelson lying in state: “One man had his right eye literally torn out”

Nelson’s three days of lying in state in the Painted Hall at Greenwich started on January 5th 1806, having been killed during his victory at Trafalgar in October 1805.

Newspaper accounts from the time explain how the public queued in vast numbers for their chance to see the coffin.

Those who managed to get in to the Painted Hall to pay their respects had to endure long waits with much pushing and shoving.

This article from the time (below) describes the waiting crowd as a “mob”, adding that there was a “terrible crush”.

“The passage is very narrow, and there, by this ill conduct of the people, several delicate persons, women and children, who had got so far, thought it better to get out of the ground, and give up any idea of seeing the state, although by waiting a little longer, they would have been certain of obtaining a free passage.”

Once inside the Painted Hall, the “whole of the view, at the inclosed place, where the coffin stood, was extremely solemn, magnificent, and impressive, people appeared to feel a degree of awe which produced the utmost decorum.” But on the first day, which public admissions started late in the day, of viewing the coffin, “thousands … went away without seeing more than the gates and walls of the Hospital”


The town of Greenwich, this report says, was “in confusion” with several hundred hackney carriages and the roads from London thronged with pedestrians. The “alarming scene” of people trying to get in is again described here, with “female shrieks” to be heard all around. “Several persons were trodden underfoot and greatly hurt,” as the crowd pushed forward, overwhelming an “express order” on how many to admit at a time.

Shockingly, this newspaper report says that “one man had his right eye literally torn out by coming in contact with one of the entrance gateposts”.

“Vast numbers of Ladies and Gentlemen lost their shoes, hats, shawls, and the Ladies fainted in every direction.”


Once the people managed to gain entry in to the Painted Hall, they were met with a “solemn scene”. The hall was surrounded by seventeen thousand yards of black cloth and lit by hundreds of wax candles.

“At the head of the coffin stood three mutes, in full dress mourning, with broad black silk scarfs, fringed weepers, with bags, and mourning swords; two others stood at each side, at the foot, dressed in the same manner.”


The same report continues with yet more details of injuries sustained by the ordinary folk who had come to pay their respects to Lord Nelson.

“A gentleman had his leg shockingly fractured, and was otherwise much bruised. He was carried away senseless on a bier. A woman had her arm broken, and several others were trampled upon, and carried away apparently lifeless.”


After three days of lying in state at Greenwich, Nelson’s body was taken from Greenwich to London in a Grand River Procession. His funeral took place on January 9th at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Newspaper clippings sourced from the British Newspaper Archive