Whilst novelist Jane Austen is well-known for her connections to Georgian Bath, it is not-so-common knowledge that Admiral Lord Nelson, the most famous admiral of the Napoleonic Wars, was also a frequent visitor. Brian Hall from The Nelson Society tells us more about Nelson's relationship with the city.
In June 2018, The Nelson Society, together with the City of Bath UNESCO World Heritage Enhancement Fund, created and published the Nelson Trail, a walking tour of the city that links people and places connected with Admiral Lord Nelson during his many stays in Bath. The trail is intended to take approximately two hours, starts and finishes in Terrace Walk, and takes in 17 of the significant locations.
Nelson’s connection with the city originated through his father, the Reverend Edmund Nelson, who was a frequent visitor to Bath, where he took his annual recuperation from the winter chills of his Norfolk Rectory. Nelson’s sisters, Susannah, Kitty and Ann, all lived in Bath during their lives, with Susannah and Kitty working as Milliners in Messrs Walters in Milsom Street, and Ann taking up residence in New King Street.
When Nelson was invalidated back ‘sick and exhausted’ from Nicaragua in 1781, his father arranged for him to be transported to Bath. His hastily arranged lodgings at No.2 Pierrepont Street, the home of apothecary Joseph Spry, now has a bronze plaque commemorating his first arrival.
During the next 17 years, Nelson returned to Bath numerous times, staying again at No.2 Pierrepont Street, at No.11 Abbey Green (now the Crystal Palace pub) and No.17 New King Street which his wife Francis (Fanny) rented from 1794 to 1798. During these years, Nelson had risen from Post Captain to Rear Admiral, gained much credit for his decisive roles in the Battle of Cape St Vincent and at Corsica, lost the sight of his right eye and had his right arm amputated above the elbow. In the popular press of the time, Nelson was becoming a champion in our fight against the threat of Napoleon, and the people of Bath were not slow in recognising this.
Due to the city’s ‘cures’, the availability or well-appointed rental properties and social events, Bath was very popular with naval officers and their families when on leave. It was a perfect environment to mix with one’s contemporaries and catch up on ‘gossip’. The large numbers of plaques around the city showing where the people lived and their many memorials in Bath Abbey and other churches all bear witness to this.
Nelson is most famous for his final decisive victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar, this being remembered in the great memorial that is Trafalgar Square in London. However, it should not be overlooked that it was the city of Bath that he returned to on many occasions during his life, and it was the city of Bath that provided the treatments and environment for him to regain his strength to continue and to succeed.
Information in the Nelson Trail leaflet is based on original Nelson Society publications and further research by our historians. There is now a complementary guidebook, Bath and Admiral Nelson, that contains the full background detail on all of Nelson’s visits, his family in Bath, his contemporaries and the doctors and surgeons who he consulted.
The Nelson Society seeks to raise awareness of the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson and his Navy and this book catalogues his relationship with the city of Bath. If this book stimulates your interest in the life and times of the Admiral, then why not join The Nelson Society? Membership details can be found on the inside front cover of this book.