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Hands off our Horatio! Nelson’s County defends England’s naval hero

PUBLISHED: 08:39 24 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:39 24 August 2017

The Lord Nelson statue by Thomas Milnes in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The Lord Nelson statue by Thomas Milnes in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

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Nelson’s County today rallied to the side of its greatest hero after he was branded a “white supremacist” in an article calling for his Trafalgar Square column to be pulled down.

. Ruth Battersby-Tooke, curator of the Nelson and Norfolk exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum. Picture : ANTONY KELLY . Ruth Battersby-Tooke, curator of the Nelson and Norfolk exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The piece by Afua Hirsch said Lord Nelson “vigorously defended” slavery and used his position of influence to “perpetuate the tyranny, serial rape and exploitation organised by West Indian planters, some of whom he counted among his closest friends”.

In interviews yesterday, Ms Hirsch held her ground, saying: “He was racist. He believed Africans deserved to work for free.”

Her comments have gone down like an 18th century French warship in Norfolk, where Nelson was born, raised and educated.

MORE: VOX POP: Should Nelson’s Column be torn down?

Rev Graham Hitchins is the vicar of All Saints, Nelson’s parish church in Burnham Market.

Mr Hitchins said removing Nelson’s Column would be as ridiculous as taking down the clock face of Big Ben.

He said: “Nelson was a man of his time - he was audacious and he didn’t always follow orders. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve preached before on what a naughty boy he was.

“But everyone had their hands dirty in some way, and it’s a pity if people judge characters of history by the standards of their own day without taking it into the context of the times.”

Ruth Battersby-Tooke, curator of the Nelson and Norfolk at Norwich Castle, said it was vital to preserve objects the past to help us understand the world today and guide our way in the future.

MORE: Should ‘white supremacist’ Lord Nelson’s Trafalgar Square column be pulled down?

She said: “If you get rid of those objects then you are unable to have the kind of debates that we are currently having. It’s important to debate them and reflect on them. I’d encourage anyone to come to the exhibition and make up their own mind about Nelson.”

Meanwhile, in an edp24 poll, 90pc of more than 4,000 people voted “no” to Nelson’s Column being toppled.

Ms Hirsch said it was “people like Nelson” who made the spread of the slave trade possible, adding: “He used his military prowess, the incredibly iconic status he had as a result of his naval victories, to then try and further the interests of slave owners in the Caribbean.

“He used his position in the House of Lords to lobby, very actively, in favour of slavery even at a time when his contemporaries thought it should be abolished.”

-Additional reporting by STUART ANDERSON

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