Sunday, 27 February 2011


My post on the Vardon scroll depicting Nelson's Funeral procession to St Paul's in 1806 (see post of 25 January) has generated quite a lot of interest and some further reflection as to what it exactly might be.  The website Nelson and His World - - picked up the debate very quickly. 

There was some reluctance in the Nelson and His World discussion thread to accept that a ten year could have been sufficiently competent to do the work.  I have no doubt that John Vardon was.  I have a passing interest in English drawings and watercolours of this period and the execution of the scroll is well within the competence of as ten year old at the time.  Training was much more focused, high standards were expected and, quite frankly, a world with fewer distractions meant that work was done much more thoroughly.

Also doubt was cast about the genuineness of the lump of fossilised soup that the Vardons stated to have been preserved from a batch prepared on HMS Victory on 21 October 1805.  As it has now completely disappeared, I think the odds are long that it has survived at Buckingham Palace or some other royal palace, we will never know with certainty.  All I was doing as a blogger was to report a family tradition.  It is one I find quite credible.  There was an immediately reverential interest in anything connected with the Battle of Trafalgar as soon as it was clear what a great victory had been achieved linked to the poignant fact that Nelson had been killed in the hour of his greatest triumph.  Preserving a lump of soup in such circumstances seems quite understandable.  What is of greater interest is quite it lasted so long without modern methods of preservation such as freezing or rapid dehydration.
The Toy Lord Nelson Funeral Panorama.  Thin paper sheet 12x7.5 inches. Published 25 January 1805 priced at one shiiling and sixpence.  The sheet would have been cut up and the procession glued together as a roll.  It would then be drawn across the scene on the bottom left to animate it.  Sold for £920.  With acknowledgements to the 1805 Club.
The remaining area of debate has been the influences on, and possible purpose of, the scroll. Penny Fussell, our archivist, has I think found the complete answer. The Kedge Anchor, the newsletter of the 1805 Club has a useful section reviewing sales of naval memorabilia.  In the March/April 2010 edition - number 27 - there is the record of a toy Lord Nelson Funeral Panorama sold on eBay by a seller in Bristol.  It is almost certainly the inspiration of Paul Vardon's home-made copy.

I can remember playing with similar paper cut-outs drawn across a small cardboard box proscenium stage.  They were often processions of circus animals. There was also a variation where cut outs were passed in front of a light source to create a shadow show.

Incidentally the 1805 Club was founded in 1990 to care for the memorials of the Georgian sailing navy.  For more details go to

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