Brewery Plain near the building where Lord Nelson received the Freedom of Great Yarmouth and addressed the citizens of the town after his victory over the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1801.
Nelson’s first visit to Great Yarmouth in 1800, came two years after his success at the Battle of the Nile, the most decisive victory of his career; where he totally destroyed the French fleet. For most of the next two years he remained in Naples, staying with the British Envoy, Sir William Hamilton and his wife, Emma, until recalled home in July 1800. For the next three months Nelson and the Hamiltons journeyed across Europe, until they eventually sailed from Cuxhaven in the mail packet, King George, en route to Great Yarmouth, arriving to a tumultuous welcome on 6th November 1800.
The King George landed somewhere on the Gorleston side of the river, where the party was officially received by the Mayor, Samuel Barker, and members of the Corporation. A procession of horse-drawn carriages proceeded along, what was then, the Southtown Turnpike to Haven Bridge, where it was reported that the horses were taken out of Nelson’s coach and the townsfolk took over, pulling the carriage by manpower to Church Plain and the Wrestlers’ Inn, which at that time was the town’s principal hostelry.
Soon after arrival at the Wrestlers’ Inn, Lord Nelson made an appearance at an open window to address the vast crowd that had gathered to welcome the Hero of the Nile, and told them, I am myself a Norfolk man and I glory in being so. After this appearance, the Mayor and Corporation presented Nelson with the Freedom of the Borough at a reception attended by many of the principal inhabitants of the town.
The following day, Nelson attended a service in St. Nicholas’ Parish Church conducted by the Revd. Turner, giving thanksgiving for his safe return to England. As the party entered the church, the organ played, See the Conquering Hero Comes. In the evening, Nelson was entertained by the Mayor at his house in King Street and, before leaving, he gave the Mayor £50, for the necessitous poor of the town.
On 8th November 1800, Nelson left the town bound for London. He was escorted to the Borough boundary by the Yeoman Cavalry under the command of Captain Lacon. Before his departure, the landlady of the Wrestlers’ Inn, Mrs Suckling, requested permission to re-name the establishment, The Nelson Arms. That would be absurd said Nelson, seeing that I only have one, and the name, The Nelson Hotel was suggested as an alternative.
The Wrestlers’ Inn was originally much larger than the public house of today. It was an inn in the 17th century and, by 1743, it was taken over by Job Smith and thereafter it was considered to be town’s superior inn. The name, The Nelson Hotel, only lasted until 1836, when it reverted to its original name. The building was damaged by bombing in 1942 and later rebuilt by Lacon’s Brewery in its original style. In 1992, its name was changed to Hardy’s, but in 1997, it reverted again to the Wrestlers’ Inn. It is now an accountancy firm.
The Wrestlers' Inn on the right
The Battle of the Nile