Historic medallions returned to Nelson’s birthplace at Burnham Thorpe

They are only the size of a 10p coin, but a pair of medallions believed to be made of wood from HMS Victory have been donated to Burnham Thorpe – the birthplace of Admiral Lord Nelson.

David Morris, 71, from Surrey, who was evacuated to the north Norfolk village in 1944, along with his six brothers and sisters and mother, gave the objects to the village's church warden, Mary Heather, on a recent visit.

One of the medallions is believed to have been created from part of the decking where Lord Nelson fell and died after the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, and the other from the mast of HMS Victory, which was blown down during the battle, according to Mr Morris.

He said his mother, Kathleen Morris, who died nearly 10 years ago, was given the historical objects in 1945 by rector Henry Hibberd, who lived in Burnham Thorpe rectory, next to All Saints' Church, to where Mrs Morris and her children were evacuated for a year during the second world war.

The medallions were a goodbye present to the family, who moved back to their Surrey home, and Mr Morris was given the medallions by his mother a year before she died, aged 89.

'She often used to get them out, looked at them and told us stories,' Mr Morris added. 'Before she died I asked her if we could look at the medallions and she said 'take them'.'

While he was on holiday recently in Lowestoft, Suffolk, with his wife and friends he brought the medallions back to Burnham Thorpe and gave them to Mrs Heather, who has lived in the village for most of her life.

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Mr Morris, a father of two, said: 'I loved the medallions and it was nice to show them to people but I didn't know what my boys would do with them. I'm sure my mother would be pleased that they went back to Burnham Thorpe. I feel good about it. I think that is where they should be.'

Mrs Heather, who is also the church organist, said the historic items were wonderful for the village.

'I was very surprised because when Mr Morris rang up saying he had medals I thought of something which was made of solid metal, but they are the size of a 10p piece. He didn't want them to go into oblivion,' she added.

The medallions are surrounded by silver and glass and are engraved – one is marked with HMS Victory Oct 21 1805, and the other is marked with the date of Lord Nelson's birth and death.

Several of these medallions were made after the Battle of Trafalgar for friends and family of people who died in the conflict, according to Mr Morris.

It is believed that the pair given to Mrs Morris in 1945, which are yet to be valued, were originally awarded to Lord Nelson's family who lived at the Burnham Thorpe rectory. His father was rector for All Saints' Church.

The war hero was one of 11 children and was born in the north Norfolk village on September 29, 1758. After studying for the Navy he returned for five years to Burnham Thorpe with his wife, Frances Nisbet.

By 1805, Lord Nelson was already a national hero and joined the battle against Napoleon Bonaparte's Franco-Spanish fleet off C�diz, south-west Spain, in September 1805.

The British fleet, which was outnumbered by Franco-Spanish ships, won the Battle of Trafalgar but one of the victims was Lord Nelson who was shot on the deck of HMS Victory on October 21. He was buried at St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Rev Graham Hitchins, who is rector for the Burnham area, said: 'We are extremely grateful when people bring back things which connect this amazing famous event with little places like Burnham Thorpe.'

Although it cannot be verified that the wood was from HMS Victory, Mrs Heather confirmed that Parker W and Son Jewellers, in Fakenham, said the silver dated back to the 19th century and the Rev Hitchins has been told they are very valuable.

He said they will be kept in a safe instead of being on display at All Saints' Church but will be exhibited from time to time.

sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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