Who was Sir Harry?
Sir Harry Burrard Neale (1765–1840)
Harry Burrard was born on 16th September 1765, the eldest son of Lt. Col. William Burrard, then Governor of Yarmouth Castle on the Isle of Wight. Harry was almost certainly born at Walhampton House (now School) – the family home of the Burrards – and he inherited the Baronetcy of Walhampton from his uncle (also called Harry) in 1791. Harry was educated at Christchurch Grammar School and joined the Royal Navy as a Midshipman aged 13 in 1778 – the start of a glittering naval career. Much of Harry’s early service was spent in action against the French off the east coast of America and in the West Indies where, in 1785, he demonstrated extraordinary courage, jumpinginto the sea to rescue five men wrecked by a hurricane. In 1793, he was promoted Captain of a frigate serving in the Mediterranean and, in 1794, soon after his marriage to Grace Elizabeth Neale, he took command of a captured French ‘man o’ war’ HMS San Fiorenzo. It is recorded that during his career under his orders, a total of 20 enemy ships of war were taken destroyed.
The Nore Mutiny
Sir Harry rose to national prominence in May 1797 for his role in quelling a mutiny at The Nore, an anchorage in the Thames Estuary. Britain was at war with revolutionary France at the time and, when mutineers blockaded the Thames and proposed sailing to France, urgent action was called for. Sir Harry and his loyal crew broke the mutiny and earned the gratitude of George III and the City of London. The Admiral was subsequently presented with the ‘Nore Drum’ in recognition.
Sir Harry’s Naval Honours
Sir Harry was promoted Rear Admiral in 1810, Vice Admiral in 1814 and served as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet from 1823-1826. He was promoted Admiral in 1830. His exceptional service was recognised by George III, by his investiture as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (in 1815) and Knight Grand Cross (1822) and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (1823).
His Political and Civic Achievements
Despite his naval commitments, Sir Harry was very active in Walhampton and Lymington life. In particular, he was one of two MPs for Lymington for no fewer than 25 years, over a period of 45 years, 1790 – 1835… and Mayor of the town. He helped bring gas lighting to Lymington. Sir Harry died, aged 75, in February 1840. Having no children, the Baronetcy passed to his brother, Reverend George Burrard. Lady Neale died in 1855 aged 83.
This Monument commemorates the life and achievements of Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale Bt. GCB GCMG, who was born half a mile away at Walhampton House (now School) and lived there whenever his illustrious naval career would allow.
The large cast iron plaques on the four sides of the Monument recall different aspects of Sir Harry’s life (1765-1840):
The east (Monument Lane) facing plaque records the purpose of the Monument and the Royal Family’s support for its erection.
That facing south (The Solent) appropriately summarises the achievements of Sir Harry’s long and outstanding naval career – including his role in the breaking of the Nore Mutiny of 1797, when mutinous sailors blockaded London and urged closer links with revolutionary France.
That facing west (Lymington High St. and its then Town Hall) rightly recalls Sir Harry’s considerable contribution to civic life – especially as an MP for the town for no fewer than 25 years over a period of 45.
The northern plaque faces his Walhampton estate and talks of Sir Harry’s great character.
The Monument’s commissioning, design and construction
Within days of Sir Harry’s death (on 7th February 1840)a meeting of ‘the great and good of Lymington’ decided to commission a memorial in his honour and site it here at ‘Mount Pleasant’. George Draper of Chichester was selected as Architect and George Banks, a local man, as Builder. A Public Subscription was opened and raised nearly £1,500. A full list of the 200 donors, and how much each contributed, still exists. [Members of the Royal Family and some leading citizens each gave £50. At the other extreme, the smallest donation was 1 shilling.] 2000 people are said to have processed to Mount Pleasant, in September 1840, to view the laying of the Foundation Stone! The 76-foot Monument was designed in the fashionable Egyptian and is constructed of gigantic blocks of the finest granite, from Foggintor quarry on Dartmoor, erected on top of a brick plinth. The ashlar blocks were shipped to Lymington and unloaded by Old Ferry House on Undershore Road.
Then and now
With the Monument now surrounded and obscured by tall trees, it’s difficult to visualise quite what it was like in earlier times – but we know from contemporary pictures that:
The Monument stood proudly on the highest hill-top between Calshot and Keyhaven and was used as a sea-mark by Solent shipping. It was set in open parkland and was fully visible from Lymington. The obelisk was surrounded by iron railings, with Trident decorations (see c.1900 postcard above left) and an historic cannon was displayed on the site. Unfortunately, all of the decorative metalwork was removed for the WWII war effort.
Fortunately, prompted by the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Harry in 2015, the ‘Burrard Neale 250’ project is working to remind people of their ‘forgotten’ New Forest hero and to restore the Admiral’s memory and memorials.
One of Britain's finest obelisks
Location of Walhampton Monument.