The huge statue
stands high above the mouth of the Tyne. It is of Admiral Lord Collingwood,
a hero to rank with the great Elizabethans and even with Lord Nelson himself
in Britain’s naval history.
Collingwood of humble Northumbrian
origin rose to the highest rank in the Royal Navy, and won almost every
honour which a grateful country could bestow upon him. Cuthbert Collingwood
was born in Newcastle on October 24th 1748 into an old Northumbrian family,
living in rather reduced circumstances as a result of the Civil war of
the 17th century. As a boy, he attended the Royal free Grammar School
in Jesmond, Newcastle. At the age of eleven he joined the Royal Navy frigate
"Shannon" which was commanded by his maternal cousin, Captain Braithwaite.
Collingwood and Nelson rose steadily up through the ranks becoming firm
friends and developing a great respect for each other’s abilities fighting
in the American War of Independence in the 1770s and then against Napoleon.
Home for Collingwood was a pleasant Georgian house in Morpeth, a village
thirteen miles north of Newcastle. Peaceful days they were, between the
wars which occupied so much of his life, and he spent the time reading
history and cultivating his garden on the banks of the River Wansbeck.
He would plant acorns at every opportunity wherever they might have a
reasonable chance to grow into fine oaks which would provide timber to
build ships which the navy needed.
It may well be that many of the majestic oak trees in the pleasant countryside
surrounding present day
Morpeth owe their existence to Collingwood’s exhortations this farmer
friends to plant acorns for England’s future.
At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Collingwood was in command of the
Royal Sovereign, which engaged the enemy fleet for fully an hour before
the main body of the British fleet arrived in support. This outstanding
deed of daring caused Nelson to remark to Captain Blackett "See how that
noble fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action." After Nelson’s death
in the heat of battle, Collingwood assumed command of the British fleet,
and in utterly routing the enemy force, fully justified Nelson’s glowing
tribute. After Trafalgar, many honours were bestowed upon Collingwood.
He was given a peerage, and took as his title, Baron Collingwood of Caldburne
and Hethpoole in Northumberland. Collingwood died on board the Ville-De-Paris
March 7, 1810 and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral where a monument
to his memory was erected. In Newcastle a cenotaph containing a medallion
and inscription was placed in the church of St. Nicholas, and a portrait
was hung in the Exchange at Sandhill. It was not until 1845 that a public
monument was erected. But the siting of the proposed statue caused a dispute.
The citizens of Newcastle did not approve of the riverside site at Tynemouth,
and felt that a statue might more worthily have been placed in their city.
Collingwood’s birthplace. The considerable proportions of the structure
form an impressive sight from the seaward side and, appropriately enough,
Lord Collingwood in the regalia of Admiral of the Fleet is looking out
to sea in the way he must have done for so much of his life in the Royal
Navy. The Collingwood monument is a few hundred yards from the end of
Front Street in Tynemouth village. It stands on grassy slopes high above
the Tyne. At each side of the wide flight of steps which leads to the
terrace are cannons from the "Royal Sovereign". A plaque on the support
pillar quotes Nelson’s admiring comment on Collingwood’s action at Trafalgar.
This imposing monument is Northumberland’s official tribute to one of
her most distinguished sons but, on a more homely level, the name Collingwood
is perpetuated by streets and inns in towns and villages.