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Archives in London and the M25 area

Nelson, Vice Admiral Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758-1805)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 MSS.3667-3681
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Nelson, Vice Admiral Horatio, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758-1805)
Date(s): 1780-1805
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 15 volumes
Name of creator(s): Nelson | Horatio | 1758-1805 | 1st Viscount Nelson | Vice Admiral
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Horatio Nelson was born in 1758 in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, the son of the rector, and entered the Royal Navy in 1770. In the early part of his career he served in various stations, rising up the ranks with occasional periods on half-pay. By 1797 he had risen to Commander and his role in the Battle of St. Vincent in that year led to his promotion to Rear-Admiral. In 1798 he annihilated the French fleet at the Battle of Aboukir Bay. In 1801 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral, led the British attack on Copenhagen, and was made Viscount Nelson. In 1803 he was appointed to head the Mediterranean fleet, eventually coming into conflict with the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in which he was killed in the course of the British victory.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection consists of original and copy documents relating to Viscount Nelson. Although it spans his career from 1780 to his death in 1805, the bulk of the collection centres on 1798 - the year of the battle of Aboukir Bay - and the three years 1803-1805, during which Nelson commanded the Mediterranean Fleet. Included are several hundred official reports and surveys concerned with the manning, ordnance, stores, defects and sick lists of the ships under Nelson's overall command, plus reports on courts martial, prize money, prisoners, sailors' pay, etc. Also present are weekly reports by the chief physicians of the Fleet comparing health on various vessels and giving details of treatments proposed; letters to Nelson on issues such as inventions, requests for places, etc.; and a collection of bills. The papers carry the signatures of most of the senior officers under Nelson and are generally addressed to Nelson himself.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

MSS.3667-3675 are made up of letters from the captains of various vessels, arranged in alphabetical order of the ship's name. MSS.3676-3681 are divided into subject sections. Documents are not always held in chronological order, and in some cases an original and a copy are widely separated. Material on particular ships and particular subjects can be scattered throughout the entire collection.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Described in: S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973).

Archival Information

Archival history:

This material was previously held by the Rodney family.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased from Mr. Robson, London, May 1928 (accession number 47757).

Allied Materials

Related material:

The bulk of Nelson's papers are held by the National Maritime Museum and the British Library. There are also significant holdings in numerous repositories in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Researchers should refer to the National Register of Archives, Historical Manuscripts Commission for further details.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Patricia Crimmin, "Letters and Documents relating to the Service of Nelson's Ships, 1780-1805: a Critical Report", in Historical Research v.70 no.171 (1997), describes the collection.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
description compiled by Christopher Hilton based upon those in the Library's published finding aid by S.A.J. Moorat. Biographical information from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
December 2000.

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