Craftsman and art gallery owner David Burton could fairly be regarded as Britain’s most passionate Lord Horatio Nelson enthusiast.

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He moved to Norfolk to live in the county of Lord Nelson’s birth and has created a collection of more than 100 items out of oak from HMS Victory, the great naval hero’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Mr Burton, 67, has even had a replica of Lord Nelson’s uniform made for him, which he wears to give talks.

Today, to mark the 254th anniversary of Lord Nelson’s birth, Mr Burton is inviting everyone to join him in celebrating the life of Norfolk’s great naval hero.

He will be holding an open evening at his gallery, Art Next the Sea, in Staithe Street, Wells, which will be open from 2pm until 8pm.

Mr Burton, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, said: “For me, Lord Nelson is the world’s first superstar. Everyone knew what Nelson looked like. So many images have been made of him and he is still highly appreciated today, more than 200 years after he died. He was very distinctive looking, half-blind, with one arm and completely covered in medals.

“Nelson was involved in a total of 121 actions which is incredible. He was the man people trusted to keep Britain safe and his bravery drew a great deal of admiration. When Nelson came into a village, men used to unharness their horses and carry him to the inn where he was staying.”

Mr Burton said his passion for Nelson was sparked by time he himself spent in the Navy, between 1960 and 1975.

HMS Victory was taken into dry dock at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1922 where it was necessary to remove much of the oak in order to return her to her Trafalgar configuration.

Mr Burton was commissioned to do work with the oak in 1998 and created his first sculptures from it in 2000. He then bought 12 tonnes of the HMS Victory oak himself, between 2007 and 2009.

Mr Burton keeps the oak at his home, near Norwich, and has used his skill to create a range of items from it.

His HMS Victory collection varies from wine stoppers and ship’s block barometers to tilting oak tables and Victory natural forms, which are sculptural pieces where the timber has been kept to its original state.

Mr Burton is constantly creating new items and adding to the collection, which has been on display in his gallery for two years. Extra items are being displayed at today’s open evening.

He said he has evidence to show the oak was on HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar.

The collection ranges from £10 bottles of oak fragments to a table and chair set, priced at £21,000. Pieces of Nelson artwork are also on display in the gallery.

Mr Burton, who moved to Norfolk from Rutland in 2003, said: “I would like to see more done to celebrate Nelson in Norfolk. I would love to eventually see a week-long celebration of Nelson held here.

“It would be a great way to remember this Norfolk legend and also of attracting people to Norfolk and supporting local businesses.”

Mr Burton will also hold a second open evening at his gallery to celebrate Trafalgar Day on October 21, from 2pm until 8pm.

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