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Nelson Monument

County Norfolk   District Council Great Yarmouth Borough Council 
Civil Parish or equivalent Great Yarmouth  Town/Village* Great Yarmouth 
Road Monument Road 
Precise Location Now workshops, originally at the centre of the East Norfolk Militia Race Track in an open area called the Denes 
OS Grid Ref TG530055  Postcode NR30 
Previous location(s)  
Setting Outside  Access Public 
Artist/Maker Role Qualifier
William Wilkins  Architect(s)   
John Walker  Stonemason(s)   
Joseph Panzetta of Coades  Sculptor(s)   

Commissioned by

Public subscription led by committee chaired by Col. John Wodehouse 

Design & Constrn period

Competition March 1815; negotiations with Coades July 1816 - April 1817; work on site began 14 April 1817 

Date of installing


Exact date of unveiling

September 1819 


Abstract Animal Architectural
Commercial Commemorative Composite
Free Functional Funerary
Heraldic Military Natural
Non-Commemorative Performance Portable
Religious Roadside, Wayside Sculptural
Temporary, Mobile Other  

Object Type

Building Clock Tower Architectural
Coat of Arms Cross Fountain
Landscape Marker Medallion
Mural Panel Readymade
Relief Shaft Sculpture
Statue Street Furniture War Memorial
Other Object Sub Type: Athenian Doric Column commemorating Lord Nelson with six caryatids and a figure of Britannia

Subject Type

Allegorical Mythological Pictorial
Figurative Non-figurative Portrait
Still-life Symbolic Other

Subject Sub Type

Bust Equestrian Full-length
Group Head Reclining
Seated Standing Torso
Part Material Dimension
Column  Brick faced with white stone from Cullalloe quarry, Fife  H. 20 metres 
Six Victories supporting Britannia  GRP replacements dating from 1982-4  H. 2 metres 
Britannia  GRP replacement dating from 1982-4  H. 4.2 metres 
Pedestal with decorated cornice  Brick faced with white stone from Dullalloe quarry, Fife  H.8 metres 
Overall    44 metres high 

Work is

Extant Not Sited Lost


Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service 

Listing status

Grade I Grade II* Grade II Don't Know Not Listed

Surface Condition

Corrosion, Deterioration Accretions
Bird Guano Abrasions, cracks, splits
Biological growth Spalling, crumbling
Metallic staining Previous treatments
Detail: Following restorations in 1982-4 and 2004-05 the overall condition of the column is good

Structural Condition

Armature exposed Broken or missing parts
Replaced parts Loose elements
Cracks, splits, breaks, holes Spalling, crumbling
Water collection Other


Graffiti Structural damage Surface Damage

Overall condition

Good Fair Poor


No Known Risk At Risk Immediate
Inscriptions In Latin on West Side of plinth, composed by William Frere, Law-sergeant and master of Downing College, Cambridge: HORATIO LORD NELSON / Upon whom, champion boldest above the rest/In the naval force/BRITAIN/ While he lived, with favours and honours/ Dead, with mourning attended’/ Whom distinguished with triumphs in every land/ through the steadfastness of his counsel and the/ dauntless flame of his valour/ IN THE WHOLE WORLD/ Everyone dreaded./ That NELSON, NORFOLK/ As its own, by his birth and by distinction of family,/ And by the education of his boyhood,/ As its own by his ability, by qualities , by character/ boasts./ The renown of so famous a name/ More enduring than brass or stone, his countrymen/ Of Norfolk, at their own expense/ By this column have sought to commemorate./ Born in 1758, / He entered the forces 1771/ Almost one hundred and fifty times with the enemy/ He engaged./ He was the victor of, among many, Aboukir/ Aug. 1796/ Copenhagen Apr. 1801/ Trafalgar Oct. 1805/ Which Supreme act, greatest of so many/ achievements,/ To his country grievous, to him “sweet and fitting”/ He hallowed with his death. Translation by Roger Bowers, Jesus College, Cambridge at On East, facing sea: THE FIRST STONE/ THIS MONUMENT/ WAS LAID THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF AUGUST/ MDCCCXVII/ IN THE MAYORALITY OF ISAAC PRESTON JUN. ESQ./BY/THE HON. COL. JOHN WODEHOUSE/ CHAIRMAN OF TE SUB-COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO CARRY THIS WORK/ INTO EXECUTION/ WILLIAM WILKINS M.A. ARCHITECT/ MEMBERS OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE/HON. COL. JOHN WODEHOUSE CHAIRMAN/THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF ORFORD/THE RIGHT HON. THE LORD SUFFIELD/SIR JACOB ASTLEY, BART. M.P./SIR WILLIAM HOSTE, BART. THOMAS WILLIAM COKE, ESQ. M.P./EDMUND KNOWLES ESQ. M.P./WILLIAM SMITH ESQ. M.P./EDMUND WODEHOUSE ESQ. M.P./HENRY FRANCIS ESQ. SECRETARY To north: FRANCIS BARDWOOD CONTRACTOR/ ARCHIBOLD SWINTON FOREMAN To south: THOMAS SUTTON SUPERINTENDANT/ JOHN WALKER MASTER MASON On the globe: QUI MERUIT FERAT PALMAM ('He who merits it, gains the palm'); on top of the plinth are recorded Nelson's four great sea-victories, with, the name of the ship he commanded above on the related capital: ELEPHANT/ COPENHAGEN (To north and then clock-wise) (To east) CAPTAIN/ ST VINCENT; VANGUARD/ABOUKIR (to south) and VICTORY/TRAFALGAR. 

Description (physical)

The fluted Athenian Doric (the manly order fit for heroes) column rises from a plinth, whose cornice is decorated with laurel wreaths, symbolic of Nelson’s victories. The plinth stands on square stone wings divided by a flight of steps 1.4 wide, giving access to the inscriptions. The plinth is surrounded by a sunken lawn with floodlights and seating, which is railed off by restored cast iron railings. Above the capital six Victories are placed on a drum as they hold out metal wreaths (again symbolising victory), although these are now held flat (like Frisbees rather than hanging down as in the original figures), and palms of victory, as they support a stone canopy with Coade finials framing the stone globe, symbolic of Britain’s global power, on which Britannia holding an olive branch and trident stands facing the river (Yarmouth harbour was then the base for the North Sea squadron). The setting is now a desolate scene of small workshops, but in 1809, the Royal Naval Hospital was built on the Denes, its buildings later incorporated into a large Militia Barracks, so that by the time of the Napoleonic wars the still undeveloped Denes was used to practice military manoeuvres. 

Description (iconographical)

Seated figures of Britannia, with a shield, but holding her trident and olive branch (ready for war, but offering peace) had appeared on British coinage beginning with the 1797 penny minted for George III. The original Victories and Britannia (together with the finials) were modelled in Coade stone, an artificial stone cast in moulds and then fired at the firm's works in Lambeth (on the site of the former county Hall building on the south bank). The work was supervised W. Croggon and the figures were probably modelled by Joseph Panzetta the firm's sculptor at the time. Fitting outstretched arms presented problems and the iron shafts seen on the two surviving ones may have been original. The effect of wind, sand and sea was such that by 1860 they needed repairs (to their arms) as did the top of Britannia's Coade stone helmet, together with the plume. The joins between the original and the concrete repair clearly visible in its new display in the Time and Tide Museum. Further damage meant that in 1896 all the figures were replaced by concrete copies since the original Coade stone formula was by then lost. The concrete weathered so badly that this set of caryatids together with Britannia were replaced by the present GRP versions during the restoration of 1982-3. The Coade stone Victories facing the harbour were presumably in better repair than those facing out to sea and two were acquired for the garden of a private collection in Norfolk which was then being redesigned where they stood on replacement plinths framing an opening in a bank of yew. Each measures 2 metres in height and show the quality of Coade's modellers in their beautiful classically inspired features in the imitation lead weights holding down their robes in their feet and the much better preserved costume at the rear. Older photographs taken around 1900 show them with the capitals and wreaths still in place. The one surviving arm is of concrete showing that it formed part of the restoration undertaken around 1860. In 1816 Coades suggested a Roman galley for the top of the monument and this is shown in Cotman's etching of 1817, but the Committee insisted on Britannia. Contemporary newspaper reports of Trafalgar refer to it as Britannia's victory. This is alluded to in the wreaths held out by the Victories while their palms also a traditional attribute of victory had been added to Nelson's coat of arms after his victory in the battle of the Nile. The celebratory note of the sculpture contrasts with Wilkins' architecture whose base evokes mausolea fitting for a dead hero. The choice of a column reflects Wilkins' earlier Nelson Monument in Dublin of 1808 (destroyed by the IRA in 1966), rather than the obelisks employed at Glasgow of 1806 and Portsdown Hill of 1808. 


Date taken:  5/4/2006
Date logged: 

Photographed by:
Sarah Cocke

On Site Inspection

Date:  5/4/2006

Inspected by:
Richard Cocke

Sources and References

Information from Dr Mary Parker and Michael Knights, Heritage and Landscape Manager, Norfolk County Council; BOE I 524-5; Moore Andrew, John Sell Cotman 1782 - 1842, Norwich, Cat. 174; Yarrington, A., The Commemoration of the Hero 1800-1864. Monuments to the British Victors of the Napoleonic Wars, New York and London, 1988, 137-149; Kelly, A., Mrs. Coade’s Stone, Upton-upon-Severn, 1990, 237-8; 2.2 Monument structure (accessed 10/07/2009) 


Date entered:  2/2/2007

Data inputter:
Richard Cocke