In August 1814, a group of prominent Norfolk businessmen established a committee to raise funds for a Nelson memorial in the county.
Nearly £7000 was collected and the following year the committee met at Thetford to discuss 44 proposals. They selected an Athenian Doric column, designed by London architect William Wilkin, a native of Norwich, and decided on the South Denes at Yarmouth as being a suitable site.
The first stone was laid on August 15, 1817 by Hon. Colonel Wodehouse. Nelson's Monument, which is 144 ft high, bears the figure of Britannia, looking inland towards Nelson's birthplace.
On the western side of the pedestal is a Latin inscription, part of which reads: "This great man Norfolk boasts her own, not only as born there of a respectable family, and as there having received his early education, but her own also in talents, manners and mind."
A seaman, James Sharman, who had served on the Victory with Nelson at Trafalgar and who legend has it helped carry Nelson below after he had been fatally wounded, looked after the monument for 50 years until his death in 1867 at the age of 81.
Sharman was a 14-year-ld waiter at the Wrestler's Inn when he was pressed into service in the navy in 1799 and was said to have been the inspiration for Ham Peggotty in Dickens' David Copperfield.
An old joke asked why the Monument was like the Bishop of Norwich? Because it keeps watch on the 'see', overlooks the 'deans' and points the way to 'erring men'.
There is an old story that the architect leapt to his death from the top when he found Britannia facing inland, but this is not true. However, the town surveyor collapsed and died while inspecting the monument in 1819, and in 1863, an acrobat named Marsh fell to his death after slipping while climbing down from Britannia's shoulders.
By kjfitz @ 2007-02-21 12:33:21