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Cornwallis Remembered: bi-centenary of the death of Admiral Sir William Cornwallis

New Forest commemorating Milford-on-Sea's distinguished resident who prevented an invasion of England.

Cornwallis Remembered

This weekend is the bi-centenary of the death of Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, who along with Rear Admiral John Peyton and Admiral Robert Man, resided in Milford on Sea.

The 5th July 2019 marks the bi-centenary of the death of Admiral the Hon Sir William Cornwallis, one of England’s most renowned admirals. He settled in Milford in 1800 shortly before being appointed Commander in Chief of the Channel Fleet in 1801 and from 1803-1806.

Napoleon planned, and came close to executing, an invasion of England. He needed to gain naval control of the English Channel to execute his invasion plans, saying “Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours and we are masters of the world.”

It was Admiral William Cornwallis, Commander in Chief of the Channel Fleet, who thwarted the French invasion threat by blocading the French Fleet in Brest and other ports during the Battle of Trafalgar and decided on the necessity of creating and dispatching to Spanish waters the nucleus of that fleet that his friend Nelson was to command at Trafalgar - in turn preventing an invasion of England. 

This action, in the face of major logistical and strategic difficulties and through two winters of unusually severe weather even for the seas off the coasts of Brittany, secured his reputation as one of the greatest admirals of the Royal Navy, respected by his fellow officers, loved by his men, and revered by Nelson. The achievement of preventing a major invasion stands alongside the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Battle of Britain in 1940 in the annals of this country. 

The Admirals Heritage TrailCornwallis Remembered Celebrations

Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society and The 1805 Club (which was founded in 1990 to preserve and care for the memorials and graves of those associated with the sailing navy of the Georgian era) are holding a number of important events in July 2019 to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Death of Admiral Cornwallis (who had lived at Newlands Manor, Milford on Sea). 

The bi-centenary is being celebrated in a number of ways around Lymington, Milford on Sea and the New Forest. 

Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society has published a commemorative Bicentenary Edition of its Occasional Magazine with articles on Cornwallis, Man and Peyton.

At St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Lymington the exhibition "Command of the Seas: the Navy and the New Forest against Napoleon" focuses on the important contribution made by the three Admirals from the New Forest during the naval battles of the period and running up to the defeat of Napoleon's fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. The exhibition continues until the end of August.

A new 'Admiral's Heritage trail' between Milford-on-Sea and Buckler’s Hard, taking in Lymington, Boldre and South Baddesley has been launched, copies of The Admiral's Heritage Trail (with map illustrated by local artist Shaun Stevens) are free and available from the newsagent shops in Milford on Sea as well as the Parish Council offices.

Friday 5 July Celebrations

Lymington Harbour will be playing host to the Royal Navy on the afternoon of Friday 5th July when Royal Navy Patrol ship, HMS Trumpeter, visits.

HMS Trumpeter visiting Lymington

HMS Trumpeter is a P2000 Archer Class patrol ship. These small vessels are ideally crafted to navigate the shallow waters of ports like Lymington. They are used in various roles including maritime protection, but HMS Trumpeter is one of fourteen which are attached to universities around the United Kingdom to train Royal Navy officers of the future.

Commemoration Service at All Saints Church, Milford-on-Sea - invitation only

Whilst in port, HMS Trumpeter's commanding officer, Lieutenant David Vail RN, will be attending a service at All Saints Church, Milford-on-Sea commemorating three admirals buried at Milford who made significant contributions to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte over two hundred years ago. The service will be held on 5th July, the bi-centenary of the death of the most famous of these, Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, and will include the unveiling of a new stained-glass window dedicated to all three admirals.

Cornwallis reconstruction with post chaise of the news from Trafalgar

Barry Jolly, a Trustee of Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society which has led the programme, comments, “We are delighted to have had the enthusiastic support of the Royal Navy along with so many other organisations during the three years of planning that has gone into the Cornwallis Remembered programme. We have engaged in important research which has been published in national journals and underpins both the exhibition - Command of the Seas: The Navy and the New Forest Against Napoleon – running through the summer at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery and a new admirals heritage trail from Milford across to Bucklers Hard.”

Historical celebration of the news from Trafalgar on Milford Village Green - around 3pm until 5pm - all welcome

In Milford Village there will be a reconstruction of the news from the Battle of Trafalgar being delivered by two horse post-chaise with riders in full costume.

The post-chaise and riders will arrive on the the village green around 3pm, after which there will be a variety of themed entertainment, live music, Royal Navy and Trafalgar Way stands and refreshments provided by local village groups including the Primary School and Royal Navy Catering. All are welcome!

HMS PickleStep aboard HMS Pickle in Lymington on 5 and 6 July! 

HMS Pickle is a recreation of the schooner that delivered the news of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson.

The original HMS Pickle sank off the Spanish port of Cadiz three years after the 1805 battle, however, the new Pickle is an exact copy immortalised by its role at Trafalgar. The vessel is the culmination of a painstaking two-year restoration project that Mr Nicholson embarked on after salvaging a wrecked vessel modelled on the Bermuda ship from the waters off Gibraltar. 

This stunning boat will be moored on the Harbour Master's Pontoon in Lymington on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 July.

You are invited on board Pickle between 10-12 and 2-4 to explore this marvellous vessel and learn about her adventures at sea from the crew, who will be dressed in full costume including their commanding officer, Lieutenant Laponetiere. Between 12-2- once the crew have enjoyed their ship's biscuits - they will re-enact a moment in history... maybe raise the sails or even set off a cannon or two!

Commemorative Dinner at South Lawn Hotel

A Commemorative Dinner will be held on Saturday 6th July 2019 in the Cornwallis Suite of South Lawn Hotel, Milford with a leading naval historian as the guest speaker. Ticketed Event.

HMS Pickle at Buckler's Hard on 13 and 14 July

HMS Pickle will also be at Buckler's Hard on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 July, giving you anoher opportunity to take a tour and chat to her crew about what life was like in Nelson's Navy.

On Sunday 14 July, the Portsmouth Model Boat Display Team will pay tribute to HMS Pickle with a remote control model boat display featuring pyrotechnics! See miniature sailing ships take to the water and fire their canons, and then see incredible models up close in a static display.

Admiral Sir William Cornwallis of Milford on SeaCornwallis, Whitby and Peyton: Milford's three admirals

Admiral Cornwallis acquired the Newlands estate in Milford by lease in 1800 and later purchased the property. He was a close friend of Lord Nelson, a life-long bachelor and formed a great friendship with John Whitby who was his Flag Captain and whom he regarded as a son. After the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Lord Nelson, it was naval Captain Whitby who broke the news to Nelson’s mistress, Lady Hamilton. 
 
In recent years the location of Cornwallis’ grave in the churchyard of All Saints, Milford has been unknown. Cornwallis asked to be buried in an unmarked grave next to his good friend Captain John Whitby. This request was adhered to by Mrs Whitby, but her daughter, Mrs Theresa West, erected a very fine monument in the church, the old gravestone was abandoned, and all memory of it was lost. 
 
In 2014 Cornwallis’ grave was discovered but was in poor repair. The Whitby/Cornwallis ledger was conserved to prevent any further deterioration. It was decided to renovate the ledger together with the memorial in the church to a second naval officer who served with distinction in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Rear Admiral John Peyton has been restored. A third senior naval officer and friend of Cornwallis, Admiral Robert Man, is also buried at All Saints, Milford. 

 

So, if you hear cannon-fire over the weekend, now you know what it's all about! Take a moment to reflect on heroes of times gone by.

Visit HMS Pickle on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 July, the exhibition at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery until the end of August and the new Admiral's Trail at any time!