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We all know what NAVAL means and what a TEMPLE is, so is the title suggesting a place of worship for naval matters or perhaps naval people ?

Further, we are all familiar with monuments and shrines to naval people either commemorating individuals like the proverbial Lord Nelson and the ubiquitous  memorials to him, or to groups of naval people manifest in the many hundreds of obelisks and plaques remembering ships and submarines which were lost either by accident or whilst engaged fighting Great Britain's enemies. The verb to worship has several means and this one <b. transf. To regard with extreme respect or devotion; to adore'> is suitable for this purpose. All of these are deserving of our worship and gratitude.

The navy as we know is rich in combative history and given our island status has always been the nations strong arm of defence. Since the majority of naval bases and organisations [both military and civilian] have always been based in England and that the majority of its sailors have come from English areas, it follows that the vast majority of these places of reflection are erected on English soil even though they represent the whole of the United Kingdom: the Royal Navy is transparently pan UK. We expect to see these memorials and shrines and thus temples, in places like London, Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, but we do not forget that other memorials stand proud in the Cinque Ports, east coast ports especially Great Yarmouth, saluting as we travel north to the Orkneys and Scapa Flow the many other ports and naval bases we pass, and west coast ports including Pembroke Dock and Penarth in Wales, Londonderry in Northern Ireland and all points north past the great Clyde back to Scapa.

Virtually all of these memorials were funded by public subscription many prompted by the industrious Navy League now long gone, and when not that, personally financed by regimental or naval officers directly associated with the regiment or ship being venerated. Infrequently, the Government financed or helped finance some of the grander memorials of State chiefly those erected after WW1 and after WW2 under the auspices of the Imperial War Graves Commission which later, after WW2, became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

There was however, one town in the UK which to say the least had a well endowed group of genteel persons as residents with a keen interest in the navy and its meritorious officers, particularly of the father [Admiral Boscawen] of one of its aristocratic residents Elizabeth Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort.  She died on the 9th April 1799, and as a dedication to her, the money from public subscriptions raised plus generous tracts of their own {rich merchants} money were used to erect a shrine, a Temple to Boscawen and his brother Admirals, which was unique then and remains so to this very day. This Temple is now owned by the National Trust so it is in "good hands" but currently dilapidated and forlorn in appearance, crying out for a make over and some tender loving care [TLC].   It is, I believe, also virtually unknown to the great British public which is inconceivable given the history it radiates.  As an add-on to a resident with real money, I will mention the mother of that great man Charles Stuart Rolls [he of Rolls Royce fame and at 6' 5" about the tallest man in town who was killed in 1910 in a flying accident at Bournemouth and is buried at Llangattock] namely Lady Llangattock.  She was a shrewd lady and a profoundly knowledgeable collector of anything to do with Lord Nelson and she was known to even out bid the Establishment when the objects she desired came up for sale. Consequently this Lady was considered to be learned and her collection was taken seriously by the National Museums there being no other personal collector with her money or acumen. She left her collection to her town and in 1924 the first Museum was opened in a local gymnasium.  Later it moved to its present position in New Market Hall which was badly damaged by fire in 1963.  Fortunately the collection was not damaged. Colin White [now sadly deceased] as the Curator of the Naval Museum in Portsmouth and possibly the country's leading academic on Nelson, visited this town and its Museum regularly to study Lady Llangattock's collection such is its importance. Much of the collection is not on show to the public but what is, ranks well with other Maritime Museums in the country and is well worth a visit if you are ever down that way. Lady Llangattock's splendid house at Hendre is now part of a golf club. See also my postscript below.

So, what is this town and what is this unique NAVAL TEMPLE ?

Well, first of all, this is the view from near the Temple

and this is the town.  Monmouth in Monmouthshire, Wales, just a few miles from the English border in the stunningly beautiful Wye Valley.

Note the red star and the words Naval Temple between Monmouth and Staunton

Just outside the town and having climbed [in your car of course] a very steep hill which goes on and on, there is a white tower [it can be seen for miles around] which occupies the very top of the hill and is known as the Roundhouse.  It too is also owned by the National Trust and is in pristine condition at least externally, in marked contrast with the state of the Naval Temple. It is a circular, Georgian banqueting house built in 1794 by local gentry for use as a small, private dining club. Lord Nelson, accompanied  by Lord and Lady Hamilton had breakfast here in 1802. The Naval Temple was built in 1800 and commemorates sixteen famous admirals who won important victories during the mid to end of the 18th century. The Temple is slightly down the hill from the Roundhouse and is under and surrounded by mature trees which tend to dwarf it. Today, the Temple looks much like it did when first erected, but in the 19th century a penthouse roof was erected to cover the Temple and a charming  picture below of the Victorian period, courtesy of the Monmouth Nelson Museum for which I am most grateful, shows the covered shrine with the Kymin [Roundhouse]  to the right.
 

These five pictures of the Naval Temple are recorded correctly here: note the colours of the plaques which represent the Red, Blue and White ensigns in that order for Seniority - see my page AS TO RED, WHITE AND BLUE ENSIGNS for a full explanation of the ensigns worn in the 18th century.  For some inexplicable reason, other documents {and particularly WIKIPEDIA which I find to be wrong on many subjects} suggest that there are four admirals names on each side [making sixteen in all] but this is not the case. On top of the Temple is the figure of Britannia mounted on a triumphal arch. Below her front and on the arch are two blue plaques the left for Admiral St Vincent 1797 and the right for Admiral Nelson 1798.   Below them are three plaques a red plus two blue. The red is for Admiral Keith 1799 and the blues for Admiral Mitchell 1799 and Admiral Parker 1801 {Battle of Copenhagen obviously added as the last name and after the monument was erected}. Below them, on the stone lintel are the words GLORIOUS VICTORY. On the wall inside the lower arch is this plaque:-

Below Britannia's back are two blue plaques the left for Admiral Gell 1792 the right for Admiral Hood 1793, then three white plaques for Admiral Howe 1794, Admiral Cornwallis 1795 and Admiral Bridport 1795.  Below that on the stone lintel are the words BRITAIN'S GLORY.  On the right hand face looking from the front of Britannia are three plaques a blue, a red and a blue.  They are for Admiral Boscawen 1759, Admiral Hawke 1759 and Admiral Thompson 1797. Inside on the inner wall is this plaque:-

On the left hand face looking from the front of Britannia are the three remaining blue plaques of Admiral Duncan 1797, Admiral Rodney 1782 and Admiral Warren 1798.

The Temple is built on a mound which is completely enclosed by a wall.  The access point is via a small stone stairway leading to an ornate iron gateway which punctures the wall. 

The area immediately surrounding the Temple is paved with stone and around it there is a grassed area which looks as though it is tended.  The leaves from the tall trees surrounding the Temple had been cleared.

Nelson came to Monmouth in July and again in August 1802 accompanied by Lord and Lady Hamilton.  They stayed at the Beaufort Arms in Monmouth which in those days may have been a very pleasant stay over. They travelled on the River Wye and had breakfast in The Kymin, the Roundhouse just above the Temple.

Nelson came to see his name on the Temple and seemingly was well pleased with all he saw and did. His name with the date of 1798, commemorated the Battle of the Nile. His battle of Cape St Vincent occurred in 1797 and that of Copenhagen in 1801, but by the time of his visit Admiral Parker, the C-in-C at Copenhagen had claimed the 1801 slot.

The Temple commemorates the first sea battle of the Napoleonic Wars namely the Glorious First of June in 1794, the Admiral being Lord Howe.  The final major sea battle was of course Trafalgar in 1805 commemorated in London by Nelsons Column, although of course the 1812-1815 war with the USA was an integral part of these wars with France an ally of the USA involving sea power.

 

 

Today, the Temple looks much like it did when first erected, but in the 19th century a penthouse roof was erected to cover the Temple and the following charming  picture of the Victorian period, courtesy of {and copyright} of the Monmouth Nelson Museum for which I am most grateful, shows the covered shrine with the Kymin [Roundhouse]  to the right.

This historic and wonderful picture, also published with the kind permission of the Monmouth Nelson Museum, shows a ceremony enacted  on the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1905 with Lady Llangattock presiding.  Note the penthouse roof  which was erected in the 1850's.  It is thought to have been removed in the mid 1980's when the National Trust last renovated the Temple.  Note the lack of tall trees ! Although conjecture, it is possible that the three flag posts, two at the front and one at the rear, flew the three naval ensigns.  By this time, the white ensign, hitherto the ensign flown by the junior admiral and junior fleet {see my page AS TO RED, WHITE AND BLUE ENSIGNS}  had, in 1864, become the one and only ensign flown by the Royal Navy.

I have discovered through a pleasant exchange of emails that even the National Maritime Museum know virtually nothing about this Naval Temple.


On a slightly different tack, not far away from Monmouth, in Gloucestershire on the other side of the Forest of Dean, lies the little village of Newnham. In its church there is a beautiful stained glass window which commemorates the family of the KERR's.  One of its members, one of several who died for our country, is Captain Ralph Kerr Royal Navy who was the Captain of HMS Hood in May 1941, and a very well known naval figure. This picture was taken recently in March 2010 by my wife. The other members killed in action were all in the Army and were William KERR age 24 in 1855 at Sevastopol, William John KERR [Ralph's elder brother] age 24 in 1915 in France, and Russell KERR [Ralph's son] in 1945 in Burma.
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge.

POSTSCRIPT.  I know that some of you will want to see this Temple for yourselves.  I can assure you that even in its present 'sorry' state, it is well worth the effort, for you will be awed when at the site. Regrettably [and understandably],  the vast majority of the local people will have no real idea of just how important this Temple is to real navy folk or to British history per se.  If you do travel west, then you will need time and of course a place to stay.  Without acting as a broker {for anyone or anything} and having your best interests only in mind, I pass the following information on to you in the light of our experience for you to use as you wish.  We stayed in Awre in Gloucestershire which is central to many areas of interest in England and Monmouth in Wales: there are of course many other areas in Wales of interest but we didn't want to go any further west than was necessary in our short time frame. The accommodation, in the Priory Cottages [self catering], was ideal and more than adequate for all aspects of comfortable accommodation. If you choose to take my advice, have a look at this website http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g644359-d1015801-Reviews-The_Priory_Cottages-Newnham_Gloucestershire_England.html and by the way, our comments is on Page 2 "A break out West" 9th March 2010 .  Enjoy your stay/visit and let me know how you got on. Yours aye.