Ness, Neston, Harwarden and Parkgate
Emma’s Birthplace, Site of Childhood Home and Later Holiday Desination
Cheshire and a few miles away in northeast Wales.
Harwaden: the site of Emma’s childhood home
If you visit the picturesque Chester area of northwest England, you will find in close proximity the places where Emma was born (Ness), baptised (Neston), grew up (Hawarden, just across the border in Wales) and returned for a seaside holiday (Parkgate), aged nineteen, with her first child, "little Emma". The distance between Ness and Hawarden is only 9.8 miles.
In Ness, you can see an anvil memorial to Emma which was erected in 2015 as a collaboration between the Burton and Neston History Society, Neston town Council and The 1805 Club (see photo below left).
In Neston, you can visit St Mary's and St Helen's Church which – although rebuilt in 1875 – still holds the original font in which Emma was baptised. Address: 25B High St, Neston, Cheshire CH64 9TZ
In Hawarden, you can visit the site of Emma's childhood home, now used as parking access for the Fox and Grapes Inn (which was in business during Emma's childhood). Address: 6 The Hwy, Hawarden, Deeside CH5 3DH.
In Parkgate, you can see Dover Cottage, the place where Emma reputedly stayed with her little daughter on holiday in 1784. A plaque commemorating her visit is attached to the wall. Some local historians, however, believe Emma actually stayed in a house that stood on the left-hand side of the Ship Hotel , also in Parkgate. Addresses: Dover Cottage, 16 Station Rd, Parkgate, CH64 6QJ and Ship Hotel, The Parade, Parkgate, Wirral CH64 6SA
Ness: Emma memorial
Parkgate: Dover Cottage
There’s little memory of Emma in modern Naples, but traces do remain and immersion in this bustling bayside metropolis with its iconic view of Mount Vesuvius provides a feeler into her life as she soared to the pinnacle of fame and glory. There’s a description of Emma’s Naples residences here.
Emma’s Houses & Private Beach plus Mount Vesuvius View
View across Bagno Elena to Emma & Sir William’s scaffold-covered beach house
Vesuvius viewed from the Mergellina region of Naples
The archway entrance to Palazzo Sessa (further photos were not permitted)
Bagno Elena & Sir William’s former summer house: walk on the same beach where Emma once bathed. Her and Sir William’s former beach, Bagno Elena, is now a beach club (in fact, one of Italy’s first of these resorts). Bagno Elena has attracted many celebrities in its time, such as Oscar Wilde & Richard Wagner.
Sir William’s summer house (unfortunately covered in scaffolding in this photo) juts out over the beach. It was celebrated in their day for having the best Vesuvius view in town.
Mount Vesuvius: this iconic double peaked volcano features in many of Emma’s portraits. Sir William Hamilton kept a spring and autumn residence, Villa Angelica, at the foot of the mountain near the ruins of Herculaneum. Emma was an accomplished musician and singer and Villa Angelica was famed for its musical parties. Vesuvius was fierily active at this time and Sir William made many field trips to study the volcanic activity, becoming a keen vulcanologist and took Emma to study it close up also.
Palazzo Sessa: Sir William’s ambassadorial residence where Emma and her mother first stayed in Naples (issued by Sir William with their own suite and carriage) and where Emma first, fatefully met Nelson and enabled the Nile victory by pressing the Queen to release supplies to the British fleet.
Part of Palazzo Sessa is now used as a synagogue. Armed soldiers prevent access to the entire building for the synagogue’s security.
Detail of vew of Naples from Palazzo Sessa by Giovanni Battista Lusieri (commissioned by Sir William) showing their beach house, courtesy of Getty Museum
Gorleston beach looking towards the pier
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Emma & Nelson’s First Landfall Back in England and Inns Where They Stayed
Nelson House in Row 57 of old town Yarmouth was in 1801 the guesthouse in which Emma stayed when Nelson sailed to Copenhagen. Caricaturist Gilroy famously depicted her here as Dido In Distress. He drew her monstrously fat, but in reality Emma was pregnant, but trying to hide this fact. She was close to term and it is commonly believed she was carrying twins (of which only Horatia survived). Postcode NR30 1HS.
Landing Site, Gorleston
Emma (heavily pregnant), Nelson and Sir William made landfall in England on their return journey from Naples at Gorleston (on the southern bank of the River Yare) on 6th November 1800. A blue plaque (naming Nelson only) on The Pier Hotel marks the approximate spot and, although some claim they landed on the pier, consensus is that they landed on the sandy beach just south of the modern pub. Postcode: NR31 6PL.
The Wrestlers’ Arms
The story is that adoring crowds rushed to meet Nelson and pulled his carriage in place of horses all the way across the Yare to The Wrestlers’ Arms in Great Yarmouth proper. Here Nelson – and Emma – stood on the pub’s balcony and addressed the cheering masses. The Wrestlers’ today in a Chartered Accountancy practice, but friezes depicting Nelson’s landing and carriage to the pub have been preserved inside. Postcode: NR30 1PL.
Nelson House in 2017 (far left)
Nelson House depicted on antique postcard, © Bertie Patterson (left)
Gillray’s Dido in Distress, © National Maritime Museum (above)
The Area of Merton Place, Emma & Nelson’s Shared Home, Including Their Preserved Church Pew
South west London SW19.
Merton Place, the only home that Emma and Nelson shared (for an all-too-brief couple of years before Nelson's death at Trafalgar in 1805), was demolished in 1821. The area however still holds strong traces of Emma if you know where to look. For more detailed information about Emma and Nelson at Merton Place, there is an excellent article written by Peter Warwick, Chairman,1805 Club here.
St Mary the Virgin
The preserved pew some believe to have been Emma and Nelson’s
Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Church Path, SW19 3HJ). Arguably the jewel in Merton’s crown and the most tangible link to Emma and Nelson together: this beautiful and tranquil ancient church stands in surrounds that feel unchanged for 200 years. A stone mounting block believed to have been used by Nelson is in the road outside and Nelson and, on the inside, An original pew from their time there has been preserved. It as at the front next to the alter where they exchanged vows before the fateful Battle of Trafalgar. Their combined presence feels hauntingly strong here. St Mary’s also contains Nelson and Sir William Hamilton's funeral hatchments. St Mary’s is fitted with security alarms. If you want to visit the church you need to contact them to arrange access firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wandle Park is on the site of Wandlebank House once owned by James Perry, the Editor of the The Morning Chronicle and a good friend of Emma and Nelson. James Perry was one of the benefactors who bailed emma out of debtors' jail after Nelson's death. Emma would have been a frequent visitor to Wandlebank.
Nelson Sites (with no reference to Emma)
St. John the Divine Church: High Path, SW19 2JY) is built on former grounds of Merton estate. Church's altarpiece is made from wood from Victory.
Nelson Gardens (next to St John the Divine). Land donated by the great nephew of Rear Admiral Isaac Smith to mark the centenary of Nelson’s death. A commemorate plaque to Nelson is flanked by two canons attributed to have stood either side of the doorway to Merton Place.
The Nelson Arms (15 Merton High St, SW19 1DF). The current building dates from 1910 and is covered with a series of tiled murals by Carters of Poole, of the same date, which include a representation of the Victory.
Site of Merton Place. In stark contrast to their almost tangible presence at St Mary’s, no trace remains of their once beautiful house and gardens (now occupied by a row of lock up garages). A plaque naming Nelson and Emma marks this location near by on the south side of Merton High Street, near Doel Close, just off Pincott St.
The Grand Café, Oxford High Street
Where Emma, Nelson, Sir William and the Matchams (Nelson’s sister and husband) dined in 1802
Inside the Grand Café (photographed in 2017)
The Grand Café photographed in 2017
The aptly named Grand Café on Oxford High Street, which serves a sumptuous high tea as this aptly named cafe, was once part of the coffee rooms of The Angel Inn where Emma, Nelson and Sir William dined with George and Kitty Matcham on 21st July 1802 at the start of their Grand Tour of England and Wales. The art deco interior, replete with gilded columns and full-wall mirrors, is a more recent addition, but Emma would have felt most at home amidst this current neoclassical splendour. It would have been a very happy time for her. She and Nelson, at the peak of fame, had everything to look forward to (including weeks of holiday time together) and the Matchams were her good friends – later her staunchest allies and there for her until her bitter end. Postcode OX1 4BG.
Engraving showing the Angel Inn at its heyday in the 1820s. The two houses on the right formed its coffee room. From Oxford History website.
The Nile Clumps, Wiltshire
Emma And Captain Hardy’s Living Monument To Nelson’s Nile Victory
Amesbury, Wiltshire, England (on the A303 approximately 800 meters east of Stonehenge)
A series of beech tree clumps planted across a swathe of farmland adjacent to Stonehenge – are remembered locally as having been planted by Baron Douglas of Amesbury, more famously known as “Old Q”, at the behest of Emma Hamilton and Captain Hardy to commemorate Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile. Each clump represents one of the ships of the British and French fleets. Restoration of the clumps, which had come into disrepair and need of replanting after two hundred years, was commenced by Rotary Club of Amesbury in 1990. The 1805 Club provided the money for the Vanguard Clump to be replanted. The Rotary Club, now merged with Salisbury Club, welcomes tree sponsors for their ongoing restoration work.
Calais was Emma’s last refuge. She fled there with teenaged Horatia in 1814 from English debt collectors and stayed in a series of decreasingly expensive lodgings.
The Site of Emma’s Death
Emma died, with Horatia by her bedside, of liver disease on 15th January 1815, a few months before her fiftieth birthday in a room in 27 Rue Francaise. A plaque was erected near the site of this house at the junction of Jean de Vienne and Philippine de Hainaut streets* in 1958. The plaque says in French and English: ‘near this site in the Rue Francaise Emma Lady Hamilton died 15 January 1815.’
*Calais centre was redeveloped post war and the modern Rue Francaise is now some distance from the site of Emma’s death.
Sadly, Emma’s grave was lost to nineteenth century urban redevelopment and World War II bombs, but The 1805 Club erected a memorial close to the site in Parc Richlieu.
The plaque marking the site of Emma’s death (above)
Emma’s memorial in Parc Richelieu (right)