Wednesday 7 February 2024

Admiral Nelson inscribed lace bobbin

This lace bobbin is inscribed 'Nelson' in a spiral reading from the base to the top and is a patriotic inscription celebrating the famous admiral. Nelson was born in 1758 and died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He commanded the British fleet against the French during the Napoleonic wars and after winning several victories, including the Battle of Trafalgar, he was shot by a French sniper and died on his flagship HMS Victory. His body was returned to England and he was given a state funeral and buried in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Several years later it was suggested that a memorial to him, funded by public subscription, should be erected in Trafalgar Square in central London. The competition for the monument was won by Willian Railton and work on his column and the statue of Nelson (made by E H Baily) began in 1840. The column was completed and the statue raised on to it in 1843.

I think this lace bobbin was made by James Compton because the style of lettering is unmistakably his and the dark red and blue colours are also typical of his work. I assumed that the bobbin had been made to commemorate the death of Nelson, but James Compton lived from 1824 to 1889 so he could not have been making bobbins in 1805. Having done some research into the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square and the competition to produce a memorial to Nelson I now think that the bobbin was probably made during the early 1840s when Nelson’s column was installed. This would have been of national interest and there would have been images of it in newspapers and magazines. Also, at that time, James Compton would have been in his late teens and well established, helping his father as a bobbin maker.

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