A very special Object of the Month – a newly discovered letter written by Lord Nelson – is going on display at Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery from 10 December.
This previously unknown letter links Admiral Horatio Nelson with the local noble Camden family who lived on the Bayham Abbey estate just south of Tunbridge Wells. It also gives a fascinating insight into the character of this great naval hero.
The letter was written in October 1804 from HMS Victory in the Mediterranean where Nelson was permanently stationed to counter French influence. This was just a year before his great victory – and death – at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Earl Camden, the recipient of the letter, was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, so Nelson was frequently in touch with him about international affairs.
But though it does touch on the military and political situation, this letter is particularly interesting for its personal nature. Nelson is writing to explain why the Earl’s young nephew Francis James, who joined the navy only a few months before at the age of 16, has left the Victory because he was unsuited to naval life.
Nelson says he can sympathise with the young man because he himself suffers from seasickness. He admits that ‘I am ill every time it blows hard and nothing but my enthusiastic love for the profession keeps me one hour at sea’.
The Nelson letter has been chosen for display by Mike Bevan, Assistant Archivist at the National Maritime Museum. Experts there were excited to learn about this new discovery and have helped to put it in its historical context.
The letter is on long-term loan to the museum from the Camden family.
Each month Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery displays a different object from its collection for visitors to contemplate and enjoy.
During December the museum will be closed from Monday 24 December to Wednesday 26 December inclusive, otherwise the museum is open daily.