I HAVE long been interested in Nelson’s decisive battle at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.

Heavily out-gunned and out-manned, the admiral divided his ships into two divisions – a brilliant strategy that dominated the enemy and resulted in their ultimate downfall.

Among the British fleet engaged that day was the 98-gun HMS Temeraire, captained by Eliab Harvey.

In 1780, Sir Eliab had stood for parliament in the seat of Maldon, which he won, and went on to represent the town for four years.

But he wasn’t the only Trafalgar sailor connected with our district.

Look at the memorials in the parish church of St Mary, Burnham, and you will find one commemorating members of the family of the Reverend Alexander Scott.

Ordained in 1793, Scott joined the navy as a chaplain and served on HMS Victory – including during the famous battle.

He tended Nelson in his dying moments, accompanied his body back to England and played an active part in the funeral procession and ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In peacetime Scott became the vicar of St Leonard, Southminster, evidenced, it is said by some, by a chart table, bureau and mirror allegedly removed from Victory and still preserved in the church.

The 35-year old Rev Scott married 17-year-old Mary Frances Ryder.

The newly-weds moved into the vicarage at Burnham, where Scott also assumed the curacy of St Mary’s to supplement his income.

If that Trafalgar link wasn’t special enough, I also discovered that Rev Scott was an early Freemason.

He was probably initiated into the craft during the start of his naval service, around 1795, but far away from here, in the West Indies.

Evidence of Masons in Essex also goes back to the 18th century, during Thomas Dunckerley’s time as Provincial Grand Master (that is from 1776).

At that stage there were only four lodges in the whole of the county and two of those were being held in abeyance because of low membership – including the Lodge of Freedom, which had been meeting in Maldon’s King’s Head.

That early Maldon lodge had started in 1772, but was ultimately erased in 1785.

Some 24 years later, in April 1809, Fortitude Lodge (number 45), was constituted in Burnham.

It met at the Star, that attractive and welcoming 17th-century coaching inn which survives to this day in Burnham High Street.

Instrumental in the formation of Fortitude was none other than the Rev Scott, who doubtless brought much experience and knowledge to the new masons of Burnham.

Fortitude Lodge fared better than Freedom, but only just.

It survived for the next 21 years, but was then also erased in 1830.

Meanwhile, in 1813, Rev Scott was installed as Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Essex and continued with his Freemasonry up until his death in 1840 in South Yorkshire.

Ironically, he outlived his young wife by nearly 30 years and his last mortal remains now lie in a churchyard in Ecclesfield.

The inscription on his prominent tomb reads: “Here lies buried, Alexander John Scott DD, vicar of Catterick and Southminster and Chaplain to Admiral Lord Nelson on board HMS Victory at Trafalgar.”

In 1847 an attempt was made to resurrect Freemasonry in Burnham with the establishment of the Royal Burnham Lodge.

It gathered at the traditional meeting place of the Star, but yet again was erased in 1861.

However, this time a second attempt was made and it started again in 1927 as number 4904.

Along with the Corinthian Centenary Lodge (number 8488) of 1972, it is thankfully still going strong.

In many ways those two Burnham Lodges are a lasting legacy of the Rev Scott and represent a surprising connection between a former Burnham curate, the Battle of Trafalgar and the continuing story of Essex Masonry.

Stephen P. Nunn