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Merton Place

Former home of Lord Nelson.

Near Doel Close, High Path Estatemerton place

This site is on the Nelson Trail.

Early history

Originally known as Moat House Farm, Merton Place was built about 1750 for Mr Henry Pratt. It was enlarged by its subsequent owner, Sir Richard Hotham, a wealthy hat manufacturer, famous for the development of Bognor.

The estate later passed to Charles Greaves, a partner in a local calico-printing works.

Nelson arrives

By 1801, Lord Nelson, had separated from his wife Fanny and was keen to find a home where he could entertain his friends. Acting on his behalf, Lady Hamilton purchased Merton Place from Greaves’ widow, for the sum of £9000.

Nelson first arrived in Merton on 23 October 1801 and is said to have been delighted with his new home. The house was initially a simple one-wing property with an annexe, however Lady Hamilton supervised its renovation. The greatest changes took place in 1805, when the architect, Thomas Chawner, created a new layout for Merton Place, transforming it into a fine double-fronted house, with a grand entrance. A new drawing room, kitchen, bedrooms and water-closets were added, in addition to an external walkway leading to a summer house. The fine gardens included a moat, dubbed “The Nile,” in honour of Nelson’s famous naval battle.

The years spent at Merton Place were amongst the happiest of Nelson’s life. The house was regularly filled with guests, including the Admiral’s relatives and fellow naval officers. Emma organised grand dinner parties and by September 1805, the couple had been joined by their daughter, Horatia, previously lodged elsewhere to avoid a scandal.

After Nelson’s death at Trafalgar, Lady Hamilton’s lavish lifestyle forced her into debt. Despite the efforts of a group of friends acting as trustees, it was necessary to sell Merton Place. Much of the property was purchased by the Goldsmid family but the house itself remained empty and was finally demolished in 1823. The majority of the land once owned by Lord Nelson now lies under housing and industrial premises.

Merton Place today

Much of the Merton portion of Lord Nelson's 160 acre estate now lies under High Path estate,a local government housing initiative started in the early 1950s. The name "Merton Place" was given to a block of flats which covers the site of the Admiral's former residence.

How to get there

The site lies within walking distance of South Wimbledon Underground Station and the following bus routes: 57, 93, 152, 493.

See also

This page was last updated on Tuesday 8 June 2010