Blue plaques will honour sailor who served with Nelson

James Sharman

James Sharman - Credit: Archant

One of the last survivors of serving aboard HMS Victory will be commemorated with two blue plaques in Great Yarmouth.

On Trafalgar Day, tomorrow - October 21 - the Nelson Museum with the Nelson Society and Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society will mark the life of James Sharman.

The first plaque will be unveiled at 11am on the Norfolk Pillar, better known as Nelson's Monument, and the second at 12.15pm on the former Wrestlers' Inn on Brewery Plain. Both will be unveiled by Commander Simon Askins RN.

James Sharman was born in Yarmouth and was press-ganged into the Royal Navy in 1799 while in the Wrestlers' Inn.

His first ship was HMS Weazle which was wrecked off Cabritta Point near Gibraltar in March 1804. He then joined the crew of HMS Victory under the command of Captain Thomas Hardy and was present at the Battle of Trafalgar.

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It is said he helped carry the dying Horatio Nelson down to the cockpit.

After Trafalgar he had three more ship postings but was discharged because of illness and admitted to the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen.

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But he wasn't happy, and on the recommendation of Captain Hardy, he was appointed keeper of the Nelson Monument in Yarmouth.

He remained keeper for nearly 50 years, living in a cottage that was built for him, next to the monument, which later became a beer house with Sharman the landlord.

The beer house later became a pub called Monument House and later re-named the Nelson Hotel.

James Sharman died at the age of 92.

Throughout his life in the town he never tired of recounting the exploits of his hero, Nelson, and telling yarns of his own adventures and he was sought after by visitors.

Sharman was entitled to a Royal Naval funeral and funds were available to finance it but due to an oversight he was borne to his grave in the Old Cemetery in Yarmouth, only accompanied by members of his family, without the navy being present.

His gravestone, which includes the words 'HMS Victory' is now badly laminating and soon will become illegible.

It is believed that Ham Peggotty in Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, was based on Sharman. Dickens had many talks with the old seadog and had observed him collecting wood from the beach from the many shipwrecks and building a shelter for himself. As the driftwood from wrecked boats tended to be curved, the shelter resembled an upturned boat.

Sharman's General Service Medal with Trafalgar bar was sold at auction in 2012 for £27,000.

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