Have you ever visited the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and seen the Nelson Room which is off the Painted Hall where Nelson lay before being moved to the Painted Hall for his lying in state?
When HMS Victory arrived back from the Battle of Trafalgar on December 4, 1805, with Nelson’s body preserved in a barrel of brandy, it was hoped he would be taken off the ship in Portsmouth.
But, much to the fury of Portsmouth people, Victory made her way to London where Nelson was placed in a coffin made from the mast of the French ship L’Orient.
He then lay in state at Greenwich before being transferred to St Paul’s Cathedral for the funeral.
To enter the room was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.
I then found this postcard of the room at the George Inn, High Street, Old Portsmouth (or just Portsmouth as it was then), where Nelson spent his final hours on English soil after arriving from Merton, Surrey.
He took his leave of Emma Hamilton at 10.30pm on September 13, 1805, arriving in the town at 6am the next day.
How sad it is that during the blitz on Portsmouth on January 10, 1941, the George was razed and Nelson’s room destroyed.
I am sure standing in that room alongside the bed where Nelson might have had a short nap before going about his final duties must have been quite overpowering as well.
Is there anyone still about who can remember visiting this room?
On a different note but the same theme, it was recorded in the Hampshire Telegraph of May 12, 1817, that a Mrs Sparshatt of Portsea had died.
Her husband William Sparshatt was the carpenter in HMS Swiftsure at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 when she engaged the French battleship L’Orient which blew up.
Captain Ben Hallowell ordered Sparshatt to secure the mast of the L’Orient floating in the bay and make the shell of a coffin for Lord Nelson. The ironworks of the mast were used to make the handles and plate.
When taken on board his ship Nelson is alleged to have smiled and said: ‘Thank God there is no one in it yet.’
The coffin was brought to England and stored at an upholsterers in Brewer Street, London. Before taking his final leave of London, Nelson visited the shop and told the owner, with a premonition of his death: ‘I think it is probable I may want it on my return.’