September 2015 will see the 250th anniversary of the birth, in 1765, of Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale Bt. GCB GCMG, 2nd Baronet of Walhampton,whose lifetime achievements – both naval and civic – were so great that, on his death in 1840, it was agreed to erect a magnificent obelisk in his memory, by public subscription – and 2,000 people attended the laying of its foundation stone!
Harry Burrard, son of the Governor of Yarmouth Castle, was born in the Castle and educated at Christchurch Grammar School. He joined the Royal Navy in 1778 and went on to have a glittering naval career, rising to be a Lord of the Admiralty and subsequently Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. He achieved national prominence in 1797, for his role in quelling the 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, it was seen as a possible prelude to a British revolution – and had to be put down with great urgency. Sir Harry earned the gratitude of both George III and the City of London and was subsequently presented with the ‘Nore Drum’ in recognition of his part in the action. This drum, one of Lymington’s most important treasures – is currently on display at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Sir Harry was also Mayor of Lymington and an MP for the town – for no fewer than 25 years over a period of 45 years. Walhampton House (now occupied by Walhampton School) was his family home. Another unique monument – the ‘Gas Lamp Monument’, adjacent to the Royal Lymington Yacht Club – commemorates the fact that Sir Harry paid for the lamp standards for the first gas street lighting of the town, in 1832. Sir Harry died in February 1840 and is buried in Lymington’s St. Thomas’ Church, where a third monument can be found.
Sir Harry added the ‘Neale’ to his surname on his marriage, in 1795, to Grace Neale. They had no children and the Baronetcy passed to his brother. The Walhampton Monument – for which the foundation stone was laid in September 1840 and which was completed in 1842 – is a particularly fine 76ft obelisk, made from granite cut from the same Dartmoor quarry and at the same time as that of Nelson’s Column. Plaques on its four sides record different aspects of Sir Harry’s life with, for example, the plaque facing the town highlighting his civic achievements and that facing the Solent recording how, in addition to quelling the Nore Mutiny, his naval record included the capture and /or destruction of 20 enemy vessels.
These days, the Monument is literally one of the New Forest’s ‘hidden gems’ for, whilst it originally stood prominently on the exposed ‘Mount Pleasant’ – directly opposite Lymington High St., across the Lymington River – the subsequent 172 years have seen all but its tip obscured by surrounding trees. Furthermore, pedestrian access to the Monument from Undershore, by what is now the ‘Solent Way’, leaves much to be desired. To most people, the Grade II* obelisk – and hence Sir Harry – is literally ‘out of sight and out of mind’!