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Visiting the Britannia Monument, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England: commemorating Admiral Lord Nelson

Updated on July 8, 2014
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Britannia at the top of Nelson's monument in Great Yarmouth
Britannia at the top of Nelson's monument in Great Yarmouth | Source
The Norfolk Naval Pillar or Nelson Memorial.
The Norfolk Naval Pillar or Nelson Memorial. | Source
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk | Source

William Wilkins's huge work in memory of the victor of the Battle of Trafalgar

This imposing monument is located at the Denes, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.

Some history and features

It was built between the years 1817 and 1819. Its architect was the versatile William Wilkins (1738-1839)(1), who, among his various achievements, was Norfolk-born himself, as was Admiral Lord Nelson, whom the Monument commemorates.

The structure has been referred to by various names: Britannia Monument, the Norfolk Naval Pillar, the Nelson Memorial or Monument.

The Monument consists of a Doric column, 44 metres high, with a statue of Britannia atop six supporting statues (2). Because of years of weathering on the existing sculptures, a new statue of Britannia, and the six, supporting statues, or caryatids, were installed in 1982. These new sculptures are made of fibreglass.

For a number of years, the authorities considered the monument's state of decay as putting it at risk. However, the use of resources and efforts at refurbishment have in recent times allayed such fears.

Nelson's Column at London, England, is taller than the Britannia Monument. But the Monument's effect on the skyline of Great Yarmouth is nonetheless very significant. Great Yarmouth's urban lay-out is elongated and visitors who drive in a northerly or southerly direction cannot fail eventually to come across the imposing lines of this historic, commemorative structure.

The Monument at times open to the public. Tours may be arranged, but be warned: there are over 200 steps to climb to the top!

The leading event associated with the illustrious life of Admiral Lord Nelson is the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805, at which Nelson also lost his life. The Monument was thus restored in time for the Trafalgar Bicentennial in 2005.


(1) Other of William Wilkins's many works include University College, London, the National Gallery, London, the Gatehouse at King's College, Cambridge, and Downing College, Cambridge.

(2) The statue of Britannia is said to face the direction of Burnhamthorpe, Norfolk, birthplace of Admiral Lord Nelson. Residents of the Greater Toronto Area will recall a road named for this locality. A local rumour, whereby William Wilkins is supposed to have committed suicide from the top of the Monument when on completion of the work he realized that the statue of Britannia was not facing the nearby North Sea, is undoubtedly apocryphal. In fact, Architect Wilkins lived for some decades afterwards, and thereafter executed some of his most famous works.

Also worth seeing

In Great Yarmouth itself visitor attractions include: St Nicholas's church; the Anna Sewell House, remains of the Medieval town walls, of which the North-West Tower formed a part..

Norwich (distance: 34 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, including the Castle and the Cathedral, both of which are nearly 1000 years old, and the Medieval Guildhall, and the Art Deco City Hall.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Great Yarmouth is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. The town is 265 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      wilsomjohn: Great Yarmouth is indeed an interesting town to write about. Thank-you for your comment.