Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Matfen Hall’s Relic of War (NZ032717)

Before the present-day Matfen Hall was built (around 1828) there existed on the spot an old manor house which once belonged to Admiral Lord Collingwood’s father-in-law. John Erasmus Blackett was to die in 1814, but his name lives on in Newcastle’s Blackett Street.

Rewinding a few years to 1797, our hero, Cuthbert Collingwood, was engaging the Spanish in the famous Battle of Cape St.Vincent, off the coast of Portugal – an encounter which the Brits were to win. And during this skirmish, Collingwood, aboard his ship, Excellent, scraped alongside many enemy vessels, not least the largest warship of its time, Santisima Trinidad. The Spanish flagship was a major target of the British Fleet and, though she was not captured, she was badly damaged and hobbled home to Cadiz for repairs after the battle.

During Collingwood’s exchange of fire with the ship he laid his hands upon a 50lb double-headed Spanish bar-shot, which he pocketed and took back home on a rare visit to Blighty. He thought it a rather neat idea to give it to his father-in-law as a gift, whereupon it was put on proud display in both Blackett’s old manor house in Matfen and the later hall which replaced it. The relic is suitably engraved with the ship’s name and the date of the battle (Valentine’s Day) – and, as far as I know, it is still there to this day.

Strangely enough, the Santisima Trinidad would pop up again in Collingwood’s sight-lines in a slightly more famous naval encounter in 1805, where the Spanish giant was to meet its fate.

[image taken from author Max Adams’ website at 

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