Hamilton Road is close to the centre of Salisbury. It runs from Castle Street to Marlborough Road. It’s parallel with and just inside the ring road.
Hamilton Road could have been named after
- Walter Hamilton – Bishop of Salisburyfrom 1854 to 1869 or
- Lady Emma Hamilton – most famous as an artists’ model and for her relationship with Lord Nelson
Most of the rest of this post discusses which of the two the Road is named after. Firstly though, here is a brief overview of their respective life stories
Walter Kerr Hamilton (1808–1869)
Walter Hamilton was Bishop of Salisbury from 1854 until his death in 1869.
He was born in 1808. His father was Archdeacon of Taunton
He was educated at Eton and Oxford, and had tuition from Thomas Arnold of Rugby. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, ‘Parental pressure prevented him rowing in the first boat race’.
Hamilton was priest for a couple of parishes in the Oxford area, before taking up the post of Canon under Bishop Denison in 1837.
He was seen as a ‘high-church’ Anglican – so much so that that the idea of his becoming Bishop of Salisbury was somewhat controversial. His lifelong friend Prime Minister Gladstone seems to have referred to his appointment as ‘the sin of Sarum’.
Hamilton did not turn out to be a divisive figure once he became Bishop. He played little part in national or church politics after coming to Salisbury, concentrating instead on the Salisbury Diocese.
He died on the 1st August 1869 and is buried in Salisbury Cathedral.
Lady Emma Hamilton
In some respects, the life story of Lady Emma Hamilton couldn’t be more different to that of Bishop Walter.
Lady Hamilton was born into poverty as Amy or Emy Lyon in 1765. Her father was a blacksmith, but he died shortly after she was born.
She moved to London finding work as a housemaid, then in a ‘Temple of Health’ which was supposed to improve fertility. She became an artists’ model – her portrait was painted by George Romney, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence.
She was celebrated as a beauty. The poet Hayley, said of her that:
her features, like the language of Shakespeare, could exhibit all the feelings of nature and all the gradation of every passion with a most fascinating truth and felicity of expression.
In 1782 she met Lord William Hamilton, the Ambassador to Naples. They married in 1791.
For more detail on the life of Lady Hamilton, I’d recommend:
Lady Hamilton had a fascinating and unusual life. However, it’s perhaps fair to say that her relationship with Lord Nelson is what brought her enduring fame.
She met Nelson in 1793. They began a relationship in the mid to late 1790s which only ended with Nelson’s death in 1805.
Lady Hamilton died in 1815, but her fame survived her. The 1941 film ‘That Hamilton Woman’ starred Vivien Leigh who had recently been in ‘Gone With The Wind’. Winston Churchill according to some biographers declared it to be his favourite film, although it should be said that he was instrumental in getting the film madeTCM – That Hamilton Woman. In 1973, Glenda Jackson played Emma Hamilton in ‘Bequest to the Nation’.
Hamilton Road – named after Bishop Walter or Lady Emma?
So who is Hamilton Road named after? The Bishop or the artists’ model?
The ‘case’ for Bishop Walter
The ‘case’ for Bishop Walter is fairly clear. He was a well-respected Bishop of Salisbury, who would have served within living memory of the completion of Hamilton Road.
The ‘case’ for Lady Emma
So why do I think the road might have been named after Lady Emma?
The age of the houses
The first thing to consider knocks a hole in the idea of Hamilton Road fitting in with a theme of Bishops.
If you look at the roads in the area, it’s fairly clear that Ridgeway Road, Wordsworth Road, Donaldson Road and Moberly Road were all built some time after Hamilton Road. I haven’t yet researched this properly, but the roads named after the bishops are clearly 1920s or 1930s houses whereas Hamilton Road is probably 19th or early 20th century.
A very unscientific look at the houses would suggest that Hamilton Road was built at around the same time as the neighbouring Kings Road, Wyndham Road, Wyndham Terrace, Marlborough Road, Woodstock Road and Nelson Road.
The last road name here is obviously significant – the roads are close together, but now divided by the railway line.
Other towns also have also have ‘Nelson Roads’ and Hamilton Roads close together. I found the following:
The ‘Churchill pair’ and the ‘Nelson pair’
There may also be a certain symmetry between Marlborough Road and Woodstock Road on the one hand, and Nelson Road and Hamilton Road on the other.
As you can hopefully see from the map, the four roads are close together. Marlborough Road adjoins both Hamilton Road and Woodstock Road. They are divided from Nelson Road by the railway, but still fairly close.
I think you could feasibly argue that Britain’s first great military hero, many years before Nelson, was John Churchill. John Churchill was the Duke of Marlborough – he defeated the French at Blenheim in 1704.
In recognition of his achievements, the Duke of Marlborough was granted the ‘royal manor of Woodstock‘.
At Woodstock, Marlborough built what is still one of England’s largest buildings – Blenheim Palace.
So ‘Marlborough’, the great military hero has a strong connection with ‘Woodstock’ – perhaps ‘Hamilton’ references the other great military hero, ‘Nelson’?
I don’t know whether Hamilton Road is named after Lady Emma or Bishop Walter.
So far, I’ve been trying to work out the meanings of Salisbury’s road names through easily available internet or printed resources. A man named Paul Hart?? has done a proper job of research through old Council documents and has written a really good document on the subject. I’m going to consult that when I’ve finished and see how often we agree.
I’m particularly interested to find out what Mr Hart thinks about Hamilton Road.
- W. A. Greenhill, ‘Hamilton, Walter Kerr (1808–1869)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12132, accessed 19 Sept 201118 June 2009] [↩]
- Lady Hamilton could be called the first ‘celebrity‘, but then I’ve seen many people described as such [↩]
- Liverpool museums – ”Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante” , by Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842) | Artwork of the Month [↩]
- Naples would have then still been a city-state, I think [↩]
- At the time of writing, many British library memberships – ordinary council libraries – allow access to the online DNB. You typically just need to enter your ticket number. [↩]
- The Guardian – That Hamilton Woman [↩]