As I emerged from the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham yesterday I encountered a small troop of red coated soldiers escorting a well-dressed lady. I was somewhat puzzled, but a report in today’s Evening Mail (1/9/2005) reminded me of the occasion. It was the visit to Birmingham by Lord Nelson in 1802. The lady being escorted was Lady Hamilton. They were on their way to the unveiling of a plaque to remember the occasion, and of course, part of Birmingham’s celebration of the Battle of Trafalgar.
A result of Nelson’s visit was that a medal commemorating Nelson’s campaign and the Battle of the Nile was commissioned from the Soho Mint by Matthew Boulton who Nelson visited in Birmingham. After the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death in 1805, Boulton produced his own tribute.
One of the features of the Bullring is the re-instatement of the statue of Nelson. This was the first memorial to Nelson in Britain when it was erected by St Martin’s Church in 1809. It faces out towards St Martin’s, now beautifully restored showing the light colour of sandstone after the removal of several centuries of grime. At the time of the replacement there were arguments which way the statue should face. Looking into Birmingham or outward. The other is the issue of the missing railings. The Bullring’s developers, Hammersons, have resisted their reintroduction because of their sharp points. This was deliberately modelled on pikes in use at the time. (These have now been re-instated: see comment below)
To take in the statue of Nelson in a walk about Birmingham click on this link.
On my recent trip to Dorset I went in search of the Hardy Monument. outside Dorchester. This was signposted up a steep narrow lane. Near the top was another signpost. Following this there was no sign of the monument. Discussing this with someone in Abbotsbury it became clear that the sign had been turned round. I discussed this with another guest at the hotel who remarked that the memorial was to Sir Thomas Hardy, Midshipman, associated with Nelson as in “kiss me, Hardy” and not the famous author. Both, it seems were Dorset men.