Nelson's Personal Life
Horatio Nelson in Merton
Towards the end of his life Horatio Nelson, the Victor of Trafalgar, lived at Merton Place. Merton Place was an elegant country house set in 160 acres of landscaped grounds in what is now the London Borough of Merton in South London. The area is more commonly known as South Wimbledon.
By 1801 Nelson had separated from his wife Fanny. He wanted to find a home where he could entertain his friends. Lady Hamilton found Merton Place situated next to the picturesque Wandle River and Nelson paid £9000 for it.
Nelson paid for the house’s development. Great changes to it took place in 1805. Nelson employed the architect Thomas Chawner to create a new layout. It became a double fronted house with a grand drive leading up to it.
Also a tributary from the Wandle River was dug leading up to the house. This was named The Nile, after Nelson’s famous victory.
Nelson's final journey to super stardom and the gratitude of an adoring nation started from Merton Place.
Merton no longer exists and the land Nelson owned have long been sold off and used for housing over various generations. Roads of Victorian, Edwardian and more modern flats and housing now covers what was once Nelson’s idyllic estate.
Wimbledon and South London do not look the same as in Nelson’s day but he would recognise some of it. Wimbledon Common and much of the village has not changed much. He would certainly recognise some buildings and some evidence of his days still remains.
The Nelson Arms
On the very site of, “Merton Place,” is a block of flats called, “Merton Place.” It was build in the 1960’s. On the site of the entrance to the grand drive that lead up to the house from the London Road is a pub called, The Nelson Arms. It is a spectacular Edwardian edifice with large tiled pictures of Nelson’s portrait and HMS Victory.
St Mary the Virgin
A mile west of Merton Place is the church of St Mary the Virgin, where Nelson worshipped regularly on a Sunday. The pew he used is still there.
St John the Divine
Not far from here is a newer church called St John the Divine. Built in 1914, it was designed by the architect C. Cage to mark the anniversary of the death of Nelson. The church was built on what was part of the western extension of Nelson’s lands as a memorial to Nelson, and was financed by funds collected from local people. It has a stained glass window designed by the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones and was made at the William Morris works situated next to the Wandle River near Merton Place. The high altar is made from a piece of timber from HMS Victory.
Next to the church is a small park with a granite monument that has an inscription recalling Nelson. This stone is flanked by two cannons which stood at the entrance to the doorway into Merton Place.
A mile and a bit north of Merton Place are Wimbledon Village and Wimbledon Common. There is a very elegant and unusually designed house called Eagle House in the village, once owned by the Reverend Thomas Lancaster. Nelson visited when it was a school for young noblemen and gentlemen. After Nelson’s visit it was renamed “Nelson House School.”