New Norfolk exhibition pays homage to Lord Nelson

Adam LazzariIt provides both an impressive look at Norfolk's great national hero of the past and a glimpse into the exciting future of a small coastal town.For the first time in recent history, an exhibition of the great naval hero Lord Nelson is being held in Wells, just six miles from Nelson's village of birth, Burnham Thorpe.Adam Lazzari

It provides both an impressive look at Norfolk's great national hero of the past and a glimpse into the exciting future of a small coastal town.

For the first time in recent history, an exhibition of the great naval hero Lord Nelson is being held in Wells, just six miles from Nelson's village of birth, Burnham Thorpe.

The 54 pieces, mostly original prints of paintings, will be on display at The Maltings until September 5.

But they look likely to return to the venue to form part of a permanent Nelson exhibition after a �5 million renovation has been completed.

The prints all belong to a 75-year-old Wells man and have been collected over the last 45 years.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: 'Like a lot of people from around this area I've got a bit of an obsession with Lord Nelson.

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'There is a huge amount of interest in him. An enormous amount of memorabilia became available when Nelson died in 1805, then again in 1905 and again in 2005. What man can say he has had so much attention 200 years after his death?

'It's been an event for me to see it all on display because it's usually hidden away in my home and I can't remember the last time a Nelson exhibition was held in Wells.'

He added: 'I want to make sure the collection stays together and finds a good home. I'd be perfectly happy for it to stay at The Maltings and it could be a start of a really good collection.'

The prints tell Nelson's story in chronological order.

Many of the original drawings would have been made by people on board the ships at the time as naval officers were encouraged to keep illustrated logbooks.

Depictions include Nelson saying farewell to his grandmother when he was summoned to join his first ship at the age of 12; forcing the surrender of an escaping Spanish fleet during the Battle of Cape St Vincent; Battle of the Nile; Nelson kneeling at his sleeping daughter Horatia's bedside saying a final goodbye before the Battle of Trafalgar; the battle itself, and Nelson's death and funeral procession.

There is also a picture of Nelson's mistress Emma Hamilton, who enjoyed a huge celebrity status.

The exhibition was mounted by the Wells Malting Trust, with assistance of members of the Wells Local History Group and others.

Plans for the renovation of The Maltings, announced earlier this year, would see the venue expand.

There are plans for a permanent museum with sections on Nelson, the history of Wells and the history of The Maltings.

The Granary Theatre would expand from 68 to 150 seats and there would also be a viewing gallery overlooking the sea, a cafe and information area, and tourist information desk.

Wells Town Council, Wells Area Partnership, North Norfolk District Council, Wells Local History Group, The Benjamin Foundation and Wells Community Action are all involved in the project.

Secretary of Wells Local History Group and clerk of Wells Town Council Keith Leesmith said: 'We are looking to get some Nelson memorabilia from elsewhere and if this collection is donated we will be very grateful.'

He added: 'A project manager has recently been appointed and we understand that she is an excellent person for the job. She has to give four months' notice with her current employers, Breckland District Council, and we expect her to start early in the new year.

'Optimists predict the renovation will be completed in three years, but I think five years is a more realistic target.

'The only real worry is about grant funding drying up, but I believe this will mean that new projects lose out rather than ones that are as far down the line as this one.'

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