Throwback: The Collingwood monument


For all my writing about monuments, I never seem to have got round to what for me is *the* monument – Collingwood at Tynemouth. I don’t visit as often as I once did – I don’t end up in Newcastle by myself as much – but I try to get down for Trafalgar Day when I can, and it’s still a nice place to go.

These pictures are from the first time I ever visited, in December 2009 – you can tell that by the amount of frost on the ground!

Monument inscription

As it says on the inscription, the monument was erected in 1845 – 35 years after Collingwood’s death. So on the one hand they were in no hurry, but on the other he was obviously still remembered and well thought of at the time.

The statue on the top is looking a bit weather beaten, and I’ve always found it a bit amusingly classical, but I like the way it stands looking out to sea.

Collingwood statue

The four cannon at the base of the monument are from Royal Sovereign, Collingwood’s ship at Trafalgar. The second time I visited, for the 200th anniversary of Collingwood’s death in March 2010, they had somehow rigged them up to pretend to fire.


I love this next photo – the statue stands out surprisingly well from all around, because it’s at the top of a steep bank, but I just like the idea of Collingwood casting a long shadow on his surroundings!

Collingwood’s shadow

I’m not sure why Tynemouth – it doesn’t seem to be personal connection, and part of me thinks that a memorial in Morpeth would be more appropriate (although there is one now) – but it does mean that there’s a wonderful view of the river, and the high and low lights (the old lights must also be in the picture, although they’re harder to pick out). And it also means that everyone entering or leaving the river has Collingwood watching over them, which I think was probably in the minds of the people who chose that site.

View of the Tyne



I had planned to go to the Jane Austen museum in Chawton after my visit to Selborne, but as it turned out I got to Selborne late, and decided not to rush about, and ended up only with time to look at the house from the outside – I had to walk up that far to catch the bus along the main road into Alton anyway.

The first view of the village coming up from the south is the church and Chawton House in the trees – a more imposing church than 200 years ago, because it was mostly destroyed in a fire in 1871, but the same location.

Chawton church

Chawton House was the home – or one of the homes – of Jane Austen’s brother, and features in her letters as the ‘Great House’.

Chawton House

The house where she and her mother and sister lived is on the main street of the village.

Museum sign

A plaque has been put on the house by ‘her admirers in this country and in America’ – I think this dates back to before the house became a museum.

Memorial plaque

I didn’t have time to do more than just prowl around the outside of the house – front entrances to the street, side entrances facing onto the garden, and bakehouse in the courtyard behind.

Jane Austen House Museum
Side view of the house

But I wouldn’t have had time for a proper wander round the village anyway, and I didn’t get to Winchester Cathedral, or to see the Round Table, so I’ll just have to go back another time and do all these things!

Collingwood Society: Northumberland Archives

This weekend was the Collingwood Society’s annual summer outing – less of an adventure this year than some years, as we were going to the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn, although still a bit of an adventure for me, as the easiest way to get there was train to Alnmouth and a wandering kind of bus south.

Of course, last year when we tried to meet outdoors it rained for most of the day, so this year when it was an indoor event the sun shone gloriously.

There were three different sets of records looked out for us from three different Northumberland families – letters to Admiral Robert Roddam, when he was Port Admiral at Portsmouth around 1790, along with a book where he had kept copies of letters sent and received at an earlier period when he was captain of the Colchester, letters to Francis Blake Delaval as a ship’s captain in the early 18th century, and letters from Collingwood to his father in law John Erasmus Blackett.

We were divided up into little groups and just chose a place to start – I was at some of the Roddam letters, a neat little pile folded into slips.

These were quite a variety – some plain logistics, but quite a few writing to request things, often for personal reasons – I mean, not asking things of the admiral because he was the admiral, but asking things of Roddam because he was Roddam. My favourite, though, was one which looked as if it had got in by mistake – a letter from a petty officer to a brother in Berwick, appointed to a new ship where he had had 24 shillings and a new jacket stolen from him, and wasn’t in the position where he had previously served, although he was hoping that would be remedied – maybe Roddam was to help in the remedy.

The Delaval letters were a flat pile, and mostly absolutely filthy looking – they looked like they’d been in a cellar or something for a while – but the written sides were clean enough, and mostly in good handwriting.

The part of the pile that I looked through was a nice set of practical letters, mostly instructions about a convoy to the Baltic, with orders about stores and manning, and about where to go and how long to wait for ships to join. Some of the details were wonderful – in one letter the ship was being sent ‘surgeon’s necessaries and a copper kettle’!

The Roddam letter book, which was the last thing I got to look at, was the same kind of thing, but with the captain’s requests and replies as well as the letters sent to the ship. We only glanced through it, being a bit lettered out by then, but one we enjoyed was about how the ship had requested flags that they needed to reply to signals, but when they had arrived, the commissioner had refused to let Roddam have them. I think a new set had to be sent!

The Collingwood letters I really only got to hear about – some people had collected wonderful turns of phrase from them, including a description of Nelson as ‘one of the finest creatures who ever floated on the sea’. They were also the only set of personal letters we had, so a much more general depiction of the war and the personalities involved than the service letters. But I had enjoyed the rest too much to really miss them – my problem is always with being interested in everything!



I spent my last night in the south in a place called Four Marks, between Winchester and Alton, and walked down in the morning to Selborne – I read the Natural History last summer, and was keen to see the place itself.

Not quite as early a start as I had hoped, but a fairly pleasant walk down – a slanting path on a line obviously older than the houses which squeezed around it, onto a woodland track, and then a second wood partly filled with bluebells, and minor roads leading me to Newton Valence.

From there paths lead over the hill of Selborne Common, partly trees and partly grass, and used for grazing by the National Trust who own it in an attempt to keep the old wood-pasture habitat.

Selborne common

The north-eastern edge of the common is much steeper, and the first view of the village is from well above.

The village below

The way down from the common, or at least the quickest way, is the Zigzag Path, made by Gilbert White and his brother in 1753 for easier access to the common. It definitely deserves its name!

The zigzag path

I went first to the church, where of course White was the curate – a very old church, but not at all like most of the churches I had walked past on my journey.

Selborne Church

An ancient yew stood in the churchyard, and was described by White, but blew down in a storm in 1990.

Churchyard yew

His grave is round behind the church – he had asked to be buried in as simple a way as possible.

Gilbert White’s grave
Gilbert White’s grave

From there I went on to the museum in the White family home, The Wakes – extended in White’s day, and again later.

The Wakes

The exhibition inside is a bit of a muddle – already partly about the house itself and changes made to it by White, partly about his work, and partly about Captain Oates and his uncle, another naturalist, most of the White sections were either in a severe state of refurbishment, with information boards moved and partly hidden, or being used by people connected with a wedding fair.

Wakes parlour

The gardens outside are also open for walking about – the haha and sundial were built by White.

Haha and sundial

Every self-respecting garden of his day had a statue, but when he started making his garden he wasn’t able to afford one, and instead had a painting of a statue made on a board – reasonably deceptive from a distance!

Fake statue

Chichester Ship Canal


One of my adventures in Chichester was to go for a boat trip along the canal – which was not a thing I knew anything about until I was reading about things to do in Chichester the day before.

The surviving part of the canal is part of a much larger endeavour, the Wey and Arun canal, which was in turn part of a grand plan to create an inland route by water from Portsmouth to London, without braving the dangers of the Channel. Parts of the canal works to and along the Arun are still visible on the map, as well as the channel of the Great Deep at Thorney Island, not yet closed off.

But much of the danger must already have been gone by the time the canal was completed, with the French wars over, and only the section from Chichester to the sea was still in use by the late 19th century, mostly bringing in coals for the gasworks.

At the very end of the 19th century a railway was built from Selsey Bill to Chichester which seems to have taken over that function, although the owners caused themselves some trouble by trying to build it ‘on the cheap’ as a tramway, to avoid the regulations and expenses of a railway act, only to find out that they also lost out on the benefits of compulsory purchase orders.

Canal history

The Canal Preservation Trust has a base in the canal basin, and two boats which they use for trips (as well as two battered looking barges used for shifting things about, as they have responsibilty for the banks).

Canal boat

The gas works which used up all the coal is now the Royal Mail sorting office, but two of the original buildings still exist at the basin – a pub called the Richmond, named after one of the main proprietors, and a building used as a custom and toll house.

Customs house

About half of the remaining part of the canal is accessible by water from the basin – the rest is filled with water, but blocked by road bridges, although the sea end is used as a marina. So the trip is just down to a place where the boat can turn and back, but it was a nice trip, with coots on their nests, mostly in very precarious places, and moorhens not on their nests.

Chichester Canal

There were originally several swing bridges over the canal, all to the same design, but some have been removed and some have been replaced by fixed road bridges. One still exists, near the basin, but although it’s an original bridge it’s not in its original place – it should be one further down.

Canal Bridge



I spent my Easter holidays walking the South Downs Way, and my day off from walking mostly in Chichester, home of a certain Mr Bush – but we have already established that I’m not at all above running around after fictional characters.

It’s a very Georgian city, Chichester but it has also been a very Roman city (I like that the OS map still labels it ‘Noviomagus’, just in case any lost Romans come looking) and a very medieval city – when Bush and his sisters lived there everything must have been either newly built or in a state of constant rebuilding.

Houses by the walls

The market cross is part of the medieval city, of course, built around 1500.

Chichester market cross

The Dolphin hotel just behind it, however, is very definitely imposing Georgian, rebuilt some time in the 18th century although the name is older.

Dolphin hotel

The medieval Guildhall, originally part of a friary, was used as the town hall and courthouse until 1850.


St John’s chapel, in the south-eastern quarter, wasn’t built until 1815, but the plans for it must have been the talk of the more respectable inhabitants the last time Bush was home – the building was funded by the congregation, with a fee paid for each pew.

St John’s Chapel

I was looking out for a suitable cottage, of course, but although there are plenty of fairly modest buildings, they’re almost all terraced – not that this necessarily rules out a garden, because a Georgian map shows the houses still with their long medieval yards running back behind them.

I did like this one just inside the western walls, now the Old Cottage Indian Restaurant! But for four or five of them I think we’re looking for something more like the Dashwoods’ cottage (I’ve been reading Austen ever since I got home) – living rooms downstairs and bedrooms upstairs.

Old Cottage restaurant

The museum was interesting, with a good display on local smuggling, but there was nothing very maritime until I looked up on my way down the stairs on the way out.

Museum ship

Also up above me was an admiral’s uniform, of the type that would have been worn by local hero George Murray, who served as Nelson’s Captain of the Fleet in the Mediterranean.

Admiral’s uniform

The cathedral is another famous medieval building, of course – not only a local landmark but a seamark, the only medieval cathedral in England whose spire can be seen from the sea.

Chichester Cathedral

It’s also the only medieval English cathedral with a separate freestanding bell tower, although this may be for practical reasons – subsidence had caused problems with the original building, and one of the towers had collapsed in 1635, with the spire following in 1861 and rebuilt five years later.

Cathedral bell tower

There are a few naval memorials inside, 20th century as well as Napoleonic.

Cathedral ship

George Murray’s is one of them, of course, with a depiction of the battle of Copenhagen.

George Murray memorial

The other Georgian memorials are from an earlier war – the Battle of Providien in the Indian Ocean in 1781, which was presumably part of the American Revolutionary War. Two memorials, to Captain James Alms of the Monmouth, who survived it, and his son, Lieutenant George Alms of the Superb, who didn’t.

James Alms memorial
George Alms memorial
George Alms inscription

Collingwood Society: Nautical Pub Names

The Collingwood Society had a bit of a change this month, with a talk on nautical pub names – partly a literal pub quiz, because you got to give yourself a point if you knew where the pub on the screen was, a point if you had drunk in it, and ten points if you had been thrown out of it (although no one was admitting to that) – not that there was any effort made to collect points, but it was good fun*.

We started with a brief history of pubs and pub signs, from grapes for the Romans to bushes for the English and a medieval requirement to have a sign by which your pub could be identified (and taxed), to the first pubs named for heroes (the Marquis of Granby being particularly popular).

The nautical pub names covered quite a variety, from the simple ‘Ship’, which was condemned as unimaginative, but does seem to be very common – and useful, because you don’t to change it if a new ship comes into fashion – and pubs named for types of ships.

Next came the pubs named for individual ships – from Royal Georges, Victories, Royal Sovereigns and a Fighting Temeraire (apparently now renamed plain ‘Temeraire’ because it was giving the drinkers ideas), to modern aircraft carriers and the Politician, wrecked on Eriskay with a cargo of whisky, and even Noah’s Ark!

Then there were the people, from the ubiquitous Nelsons to rare mentions like Earl St Vincent and more local heroes like John Borlase Warren in Nottingham – Wetherspoons were praised for often using local names – and a special mention for Upper and Lower Poppleton in Yorkshire, with a Lord Collingwood pub in one and a Lord Nelson in the other.

Captain Cook, however, seemed to have the widest spread, from places where he had definitely been to places like Alaska where he might have been to places like Mumbai where he had definitely not been!

A fun evening, and I will no doubt end up with a collection of signs myself – I’ve got quite a few Georgian ones already, although I’ve never tried to put them in one place…

(*I was handicapped by rarely drinking in Newcastle, and scored 7, althought with quite a nice geographical spread – I had drunk in a Ship in Holy Island, the Plimsoll Line in Redcar and the Lord Nelson in Gibraltar!)

The Age of Sail in Everything – the Trafalgar Inn


I thought I was finished writing about Fife, but I was wrong, because as I walked up a very rural road on Saturday, on my way to climb some small hills, I suddenly found myself looking at this sign.

Trafalgar junction

A sign at the other side of the junction explains the name – the crossroads was the site of a coaching inn, built in 1803, and then renamed for the battle.

Whatever the impact of the battle on the wider war, I’m always struck by the impact it obviously had on minds across the whole country, or countries – this is a long way from any port, and a long long way from the Southern naval bases.

Trafalgar Inn sign

The inn building itself is a bit shy and doesn’t want to have its picture taken, but it still has the name.

Old Trafalgar Inn

Towards the end of the day I was up at the Hopetoun monument on Mount Hill, erected in memory of the 4th Earl of Hopetoun, who died in 1823.

Hopetoun monument

A description I read helpfully described him as ‘the Peninsular war hero’, but I don’t really know enough about the war on land to understand the importance of his role. Still, he seems to have been well thought of, because it’s a good monument!

Hopetoun monument inscription

Newport on Tay and the Fife ferries

Newport Inn

I have finally reached the end of my journey round Fife, in Newburgh near the Perthshire border – but the real Georgian interest of this last stage was in Newport on Tay at the start.

There were ferries running between Newport and Dundee by about 1700, and a coaching inn was built there in 1715 – the current inn building at the top of the harbour brae, now a gallery, dates from 1806 when a turnpike road was opened from Cupar to Newport and the ferry took back first place from its rival at Woodhaven, a couple of miles to the west.

A new pier was built by Thomas Telford in 1823 – the first steam ferries ran across the firth in 1821, which presumably prompted the upgrade – and the building at the head of the pier dates from the same time, although I don’t think it’s Telford’s design – there’s also a much more dilapidated Victorian building which was a later waiting room. The pier is now used by a boat builder, so I couldn’t get in for a closer look.

Telford pier
Old ferry terminal

What I really wanted to post about, though, is this wonderful milestone on the wall by the ferry terminal – the whole thing is lovely, but I especially like ‘Newport 0’!

Newport milestone

This was the route of the ‘Great Road’ across Fife – the road linking the Dundee and Edinburgh ferries.

I must have walked past Pettycur at the southern end of the route without realising it – apparently it’s the headland part of Kinghorn, once a separate settlement. Queensferry is the shortest crossing, but it’s a good way west of the centre of Edinburgh – ferries from Pettycur ran to Newhaven at Leith, and were later joined by services from Burnisland.

Cupar is still an important junction, if a bit bypassed by the A92, and New Inn is the junction of the Perth and Newport roads – now the A912 and A914 – north of Markinch, where a coaching inn stood which was at least 50 years old at the time, as it’s shown on a 1775 map. The junction is now the New Inn Roundabout, but the inn itself was demolished when the A92 was moved or widened in the 1960s.

The milestones are dated 1824, so presumably the route was being improved in some way at that point, fitting in with the improvements at Newport.

I thought this might be the only surviving milestone, but there seem to be quite a few more along the route – I foresee an expedition to track them down, although at least one person has been before me!

Book of the Month: March – Scottish Plant Hunters

Seeds of Blood and Beauty: Scottish Plant Hunters
Ann Lindsay

This was essentially the extended version of the talk I went to a couple of weeks ago – 14 gardeners and botanists instead of four, and a much more naval story, surprisingly – if there was a ‘classic’ path into plant collecting for these men, it was to study medicine, with its botany classes, in Edinburgh, sign on as a naval surgeon, and be sent off to foreign parts.

There’s more social background here than there was in the talk, but the basic reason why so many gardeners and plant collectors were Scottish still seems to have been that lots of them were Scottish – not only did they encourage young relatives and boys from their areas, but they became known as successful, so that it became fashionable to have a Scottish gardener in order to be successful too.

The first few, Phillips and Forsyth and Aiton, are the gardeners of Kew and the Chelsea Physic Garden – Masson, who went to South Africa, is the first of the wanderers, and the first on a naval ship, sailing on Cook’s Resolution as far as Cape Town, and remaining there for the next three years before returning home. Another 18th century collector, William Wright, served as surgeon on naval ships in the West Indies for several years before settling as a surgeon in Jamaica.

Probably the most interesting story of the book is that of Archibald Menzies, another naval surgeon who sailed as official botanist, and later as surgeon, on Vancouver’s mission of exploration to the Pacific North West, involved in exploring and charting the bays and islands of the region, and also visiting other parts of the Americas, including the Galapagos Islands. Having already read about these events from Vancouver’s point of view, I knew Menzies only as the character who signed on to a naval mission for naval pay while under orders from Joseph Banks to keep a secret record of anything the captain – however correctly – did which went against his own entirely non-naval agenda. And I still think that was completely wrong, but I’ll accept that it would have been difficult for anyone to stand against Banks, and Menzies seems to have been a likeable and successful character in his own right.

David Douglas (my favourite as well as the author’s!) is one of the first of a new type of collector, sent on commercial rather than scientific missions, and he was followed by Thomas Drummond, who met Douglas in Canada and also died young in America, and John Jeffrey, also sent to the American North West, who simply vanished in mysterious circumstances in California.

David Lyall was one of a new set of Victorian explorers, sailing as a naval surgeon and naturalist to the Antarctic with James Clark Ross, on an expedition which reached further south than anyone else ever did by sail, and later visiting the Arctic and being stationed on Vancouver Island and visiting the Rockies. Thomas Thomson, in contrast, is the one army surgeon of the book, sent with the Army of the Indus into Afghanistan, but fortunately coming out again.

Unfortunately, the book could really have done with a good editor, or just with more care being taken with it in the first place – issues range from typos and plain wrong words (I liked ‘straightened circumstances’), to silly mistakes like mixing up Thomas Gladstone with his Prime Minister brother, or writing about the ‘1707 Union of the Crowns’ (a previous borrower had taken exception to this and scored out ‘of the Crowns’ – unfortunately it was clear from the context that the 1603 union was intended!), to a whole chapter given the dates of George Don junior and a title referring to his life (‘From Angus to Africa’) which turned out to be about the work of his father, who certainly never went near Africa. Enough to make you wonder how many silly mistakes are mixed in where you don’t know enough about the subject to catch them, which is a shame, because there are some interesting stories here.