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Edinburgh, Calton Hill, Nelson's Monument

Commemorative Monument (19th Century), War Memorial (19th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Calton Hill, Nelson's Monument

Classification Commemorative Monument (19th Century), War Memorial (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Greenside; Calton Hill, Off Regent Road, Nelson's Monument

Canmore ID 52378

Site Number NT27SE 348

NGR NT 26252 74107

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/52378

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Architecture Notes

NT27SE 348 26252 74107

Information from a catalogue slip:

Architect: Robert Burn, (Father of William Burn) begun 1807

NMRS REFERENCE

See Historical File (1.12)

REFERENCE

PLANS:

City Architects Plan Store, drawers Nos. 85 and 91 contains:-

1. Original Plan and Elevation (to which reference already made) of "screen wall and apartments around Nelson's Monument on the Calton Hill". Scale 10 feet to 1 inch. daed 13th May 1814 and signed Thomas Bonnar. Also signed by John Dickson as referring to his estimate "fore furnishing Nelson's Monument".

2.Tracings of December 1855 shewing a New Roof, scale 1" to 1foot. Section of Tower shewing timbers etc., scale 1" to 1 foot. The alterations made in erecting the time ball.

3. Contract Plan shewing Turnstiles at Entrance, scale 2 1/2" to 10 feet, Public Works Office 1886.

4. Block Plan shewing line of Drawin 1898.

5. Tracing to plan shewing new kitchen and bathroom alterations to caretaker's house. City Architects Department 1937.

There are NMRS reproductions of Nos. 1,2 and 5 above see EDD/27/1-3

REFERENCE:

Hugh Cairncross (Robert Burn, Archt)

Edinburgh. Nelson Monument. Specification, 1808

(Edinburgh Evening Courant, July 28, 1808)

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Activities

Project (1997)

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (http://www.pmsa.org.uk/) set up a National Recording Project in 1997 with the aim of making a survey of public monuments and sculpture in Britain ranging from medieval monuments to the most contemporary works. Information from the Edinburgh project was added to the RCAHMS database in October 2010 and again in 2012.

The PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Edinburgh Sculpture Project has been supported by Eastern Photocolour, Edinburgh College of Art, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland, the Hope Scott Trust, The Old Edinburgh Club, the Pilgrim Trust, the RCAHMS, and the Scottish Archive Network.

Field Visit (4 April 2001)

The monument, a circular tower with windows, resembles an upturned telescope. On the top is a ball and cross-trees, and a parapet with castellations. The base is castellated with gothic style windows. Above the main door is a carved relief of the ship 'San Josef', and the above inscription below.

The original design of the monument was by Alexander Nasmyth, but this was rejected as being too expensive. The commission was passed to Robert Burn and the foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1807, the second anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1814-16 the base was enclosed in a five-sided structure by Thomas Bonnar (to Burn's design). The carving of the San Josef was added at this time.

Francis H. Groome in his Gazeteer calls the monument 'one of the ugliest monuments in Edinburgh - the curious butter-churn structure by which public taste saw fit to perpetrate the memory of Lord Nelson.' (1)

Commemorates Admiral Lord Nelson and the battle of Trafalgar.

The San Josef was a Spanish man of war and the flagship of the Spanish admiral Don Josef de Cordova at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. In this battle Nelson captured the ship and the admiral was killed.

In 1852 a time signal was installed: a ball at the top of the monument which is dropped at twelve noon G.M.T. (one o'clock p.m. in the summer, in conjunction with the gun being fired at Edinburgh Castle). This is to give a signal of the correct time, to the ships in the Forth.

Inspected By : Emma Retson

Inscriptions : Above main door, on top plaque (incised letters):

TO THE MEMORY OF / VICE ADMIRAL / HORATIO LORD VISCOUNT NELSON, / AND OF THE GREAT VICTORY OF TRAFALGAR, / TOO DEARLY PURCHASED WITH HIS BLOOD, / THE GRATEFUL CITIZENS OF EDINBURGH / HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT: / NOT TO EXPRESS THEIR UNAVAILING SORROW FOR HIS DEATH; / NOR YET TO CELEBRATE THE MATCHLESS GLORIES OF HIS LIFE; BUT BY HIS NOBLE EXAMPLE, TO TEACH THEIR SONS / TO EMULATE WHAT THEY ADMIRE, AND, LIKE HIM, WHEN DUTY REQUIRES IT, / TO DIE FOR THEIR COUNTRY

On bottom plaque (incised letters):

A.D.MDCCCV. [1805, the date of the Battle of Trafalgar]

Signatures : None Visible

Design period : 1807 (monument) / 1814-1816 (base added)

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0469)

Field Visit (31 May 2002)

Cast relief (in plaster) of ships, with painted details of sea, ship, cannon, sails and flags of Saint George, including union jack in top left corner. Ship set into plaster frame painted as walls.

Inscriptions : Central relief (lower case lettering painted gold and black):

England expects every man this day will do this duty.

Signatures : None

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0470)

Field Visit (6 May 2002)

Bust of Horatio Nelson in naval uniform.

Inspected By : AA. Campbell

Inscriptions : None

Signatures : None

Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0471)

Project (February 2014 - July 2014)

A data upgrade project to record war memorials.

Archaeological Evaluation (8 September 2016)

Addyman Archaeology was commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council to undertake an archaeological evaluation of an uncovered stone feature. The feature was partially exposed during the formation of a series of planting beds to the east of Nelson's Monument on Calton Hill. A trench was excavated across the top of the feature to identify its extent and purpose. The feature was formed from a deep cut into the bedrock of the hill, forming a large square chamber. The chamber was lined with dry stone and sealed with a 1m square stone capping. Two ceramic pipes ran in/out of the chamber; one of these was possibly from a down pipe and the other was perhaps an overflow. The feature proved to be drainage related. Its full purpose was not clear, but it was possibly a cistern tank for collecting rainwater.

Information from Kenneth Macfayden (Addyman Archaeology) September 2016. OASIS ID: addymana1-262216

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