A History of Lord Nelson's Merton Place
by Peter Hopkins
The author in his introduction gives generous credit to the late John Wallace upon whose notes this useful booklet is largely reliant. Between them they have extended our knowledge of Nelson's Merton estate. The booklet (of 47 pages including index) takes us back to the late 17th century when the land was unbuilt. By 1753 there was a substantial building on the land and this was developed by Sir Richard Hotham, the 'founder' of modern day Bognor Regis in West Sussex. By 1801 the property, now 52 acres of land, was on the market, generously described as "elegant and commodious" but condemned by Nelson's surveyor: "I am astonished anyone can think of it as nearly compleat [sic] for any family ... circumscribed by a dirty black looking canal ... which keeps the whole place damp." Nevertheless Nelson bought it for £9,000. Evidently some improvements were made because Sir William Hamilton wrote to Nelson shortly afterwards that "the house is so comfortable ... you have nothing but to come and enjoy immediately."
Nelson purchased additional adjacent lands and at the time of his death owned over 160 acres - all of which is described in this booklet. Several descriptions of the house and its extensions are discussed in the next chapters and reference is made to the existing street plan to give readers a better mental picture. The final story of Merton Place is sad. Nelson's death, Emma's debts, the estate's neglect and final demolition enabled the inevitable Victorian urban sprawl to remove all traces of Nelson's life in Merton. Recommended.
Review by David Shannon in The Nelson Dispatch, the journal of the Nelson Society, Vol 7 part 2 (April 2000)
This study contains much new material, not found in the standard biographies, and corrects some common errors that have appeared in accounts of Nelson's life at Merton.