Nelson sea shanties to be performed in Docklands after 200 years

Uncovering Emma Hamilton's collection of songs

Uncovering Emma Hamilton's collection of songs - Credit: Museum of London

A collection of sea shanties celebrating Nelson’s battle victories discovered during last winter’s lockdown is being publicly performed for the first time in more than 200 years at the Museum of London Docklands. 

The four songs were among papers belonging to Nelson’s mistress Emma Hamilton. 

Musical score from Emma Hamilton's collection

Musical score from Emma Hamilton's collection - Credit: Museum of London

They were found by the museum’s librarian Lluis Tembleque Teres among the personal sheet music collection of the actress, who began an affair with Nelson after the Battle of the Nile in 1798. 

The actress and the admiral shared liaisons at her cottage on the Blackwall waterfront — next to where The Gun tavern on the Isle of Dogs is today — before he was killed in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. 

Librarian Lluis Tembleque Teres in his lockdown research

Librarian Lluis Tembleque Teres in his lockdown research - Credit: Museum of London

“Working from home during lockdown was a chance to look at our special collections,” Lluis explained. “It felt like unearthing pieces of a remarkable life, pieces we didn’t know were missing.  

“The scores were composed by lifelong friends privately endorsing their relationship that the country at the time saw as a very public scandal.”

His discovery includes musical scores hailing Nelson’s victories at Cape St Vincent in 1797 and at Copenhagen in 1801 as well as the Battle of the Nile.  One is based on words transcribed by Nelson who heard his crew chant them after one battle. 

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The Guildhall School of Music stages the Saturday night performance in the museum at Canary Wharf’s North Quay on December 11.  Tickets are £15. 

Nelson's victory in 1798 at the Battle of the Nile, from Lady Hamilton's collection

Nelson's victory in 1798 at the Battle of the Nile, from Lady Hamilton's collection - Credit: Museum of London

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