Tag Archives: Trafalgar

Trafalgar Weather

With the wild weather today, Trafalgar day, I was thinking of this wonderful poem by Thomas Hardy

The Night Of Trafalgar

In the wild October night-time, when the wind raved round the land,
And the Back-sea met the Front-sea, and our doors were blocked with sand,
And we heard the drub of Dead-Man’s Bay, where the bones of thousands are,
We knew not what the day had done for us at Trafalgar.
Had done, Had done,
For us at Trafalgar!

‘Pull hard, and make the Nothe, or down we go!’ One says, says he.
We pulled; and bedtime brought the storm; but snug at home slept we.
Yet all the while our gallants after fighting through the day,
Were beating up and down the dark, sou’west of Cadiz Bay.
The dark, The dark,
Sou’west of Cadiz Bay!

The victors and the vanquished then the storm it tossed and tore,
As hard they strove, those worn-out men, upon that surly shore;
Dead Nelson and his half dead crew, his foes from near and far,
Were rolled together on the deep that night at Trafalgar!
The deep, The deep,
That night at Trafalgar!

The Battle of Trafalgar, Harold Wyllie, Royal Navy Museum

Thomas Hardy imagined a storm hitting Weymouth in Dorset on the night of 21st October 1805, at the same time as a storm struck the victorious British and defeated Allied fleets off Trafalgar. All the place names in the poem (apart from Trafalgar) are in and around Weymouth Harbour, the Back-sea, the Front-sea, the Nothe and Dead-Man’s Bay.

In 2005 I was asked by the Thomas Hardy Society to see if I could find out if a storm had struck Weymouth at that time, it took me a while but eventually I discovered that the night was calm over Weymouth. Thomas Hardy made it up, but he did write a great poem.

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Filed under Georgian, Historical tales, Thomas Hardy

Celebrating Trafalgar or – The Drunken Bell Ringers of Burton

Two hundred and eleven years ago one of the most decisive naval battles in history took place, the battle of Trafalgar. The tale of the battle is well known but I want to tell another story, what went on back in England.

A few miles from where I live is the little village of Burton Bradstock, the young son of the principle family in the village, Richard Francis Roberts, was a midshipman on board the Victory. Knowing that the fleet was heading out to battle, the family, and the village were very concerned for their heroic son.

Immediately after the battle, the schooner HMS Pickle was ordered home with the news of the victory. Bad weather in the channel threatened to delay the vessel so it put in at Falmouth and the commander, Lieutenant John Lapenotière, headed to London in a post chaise, whenever they stopped to change horses they shouted out the news, and this is where my story begins, told in letters sent to Richard Roberts.

We first heard of the engagement on the morning of the 5th Nov. The account was sent by Mr J. Hounsell to Burton soon after Lieutenant Lapenotière passed Bridport. It informed us of the death of Lord Nelson; and that 19 ships were taken and one blown up. Our feelings were extremely racked; all deploring the loss of the Hero; all measureably pleased the victory was so decisively in our favour. But at the same time our minds were much distressed on your account. For my own part I never experienced such incoherent emotions in my life; one minute hoping you were safe; the next doubting it from the dreadful carnage that was inevitable in such a situation. From this dilemma nothing could relieve me but hearing immediately from you. Every post was looked for, with indescribable anxiety. This was not dispelled till the receipt of your very acceptable letter dated Oct. 22nd.


Then the village really celebrated.

We had bell ringing and beer drinking the night that we received your letter. We gave away beer to almost every man in the parish. Mother had hard work to keep the beer barrell a running. I (his younger brother) was almost drunk myself. Father’s colours were hoisted on the tower and continued flying several days. The bells rang till several of the ropes broke !

They were repaired next morning.

By which time the people of Burton Bradstock were probably all suffering from hangovers, and thankful for the quiet.

So raise a glass to the immortal memory of Horatio Nelson – and the drunken bell ringers of Burton.


Filed under Georgian, Historical tales, Regency