What better position for a monument to one of the country’s greatest seamen than this, high above the mouth of the Tyne with a view out to sea? Yet in many ways Collingwood is something of a forgotten hero, barely known outside his native North East.
If you are one of the many who hasn’t heard of him, his ‘claim to fame’ is that he was Nelson’s second-in-command at Trafalgar, and subsequently went on to complete the victory after Nelson was killed. He was also a great friend of Nelson’s. Born and educated in Newcastle, he had joined the navy when only 12 years old and met his friend when they were both serving in Jamaica in 1772. His naval career took him all over Europe, North America and the West Indies; he was totally devoted to the service and to his country, as was his great friend. It is said that during his long career of almost 50 years he spent only a total of three of them on dry land.
Collingwood’s role at Trafalgar
Everyone knows, or at least believes, that Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar and saved the country from invasion by Napoleon; there is of course a monument to recognise this fact in London’s Trafalgar Square. But maybe Collingwood should stand there too, as there were two heroes that day. Even as his best friend Nelson lay dying, Collingwood took control of the situation and rallied the troops. Commanding them from his ship, the Royal Sovereign, he routed the French and Spanish enemy forces. Had the Royal Navy lost the battle, Napoleon and his 115,000 troops would have been free to sweep across the channel from his base in Boulogne and invade England. But thanks to Collingwood the British Navy did not lose a single ship at Trafalgar; and more importantly, the country was saved from invasion.
Collingwood also recognised the great degree to which the Navy relied on oak trees to build the ships it needed. He knew that it took 2,000-3,000 oaks to build a ship like Victory or the Royal Sovereign. So he bought land in the Cheviots and developed forestry plantations there; and on the rare occasions he was home, he planted acorns wherever he could to boost the stocks of timber for British ships. Ironically, by the time these trees were fully grown technology had moved on and ships were being built from iron rather than wood. But he was not to know that. He died at sea near Menorca in 1810, having been made a Baron for his great exploits at Trafalgar.
This marvellous monument to him was erected in 1845, and was designed by John Dobson, with the statue sculpted by John Graham Lough. It stands on a massive base incorporating a flight of steps flanked by four cannons from the Royal Sovereign, the ship he commanded at Trafalgar. The inscription on the base reads:
was erected in 1845 by Public Subscription to the memory of
ADMIRAL LORD COLLINGWOOD
who in the Royal Sovereign on 21st October, 1805 led the British Fleet
into action at Trafalgar and sustained the Sea Fight for upwards of an hour
before the other ships were in gunshot which caused Nelson to exclaim:
“SEE HOW THAT NOBLE FELLOW COLLINGWOOD TAKES HIS SHIPS INTO ACTION”
He was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1748 and died in the Service
Of his country on board of the “VILLE DE PARIS” on 7th March 1810
AND WAS BURIED IN ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
THE FOUR GUNS UPON THIS MONUMENT BELONGED TO HIS SHIP THE
I have written previously about my love of Tyneside, developed over many years of marriage to a Geordie (native of Newcastle). I consider the city my second home; but it is nearby Tynemouth that particularly draws me, with its combination of history, coastline and appealing village-like centre.
I am sharing one of my favourite spots there for this week’s Lens-Artist challenge in which guest host Priscilla has asked us to share ‘anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.’ Certainly Tynemouth has won my affection, while this monument to a forgotten hero has captured my attention and taught me a thing or two about our history!
I visit Tynemouth regularly. These photos were mostly taken in 2015.