Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 15:53 UK

Nelson memorabilia auctioned off

Oak Nelson box
The box is said to be made from the barrel that held Nelson (Pic: Bonhams)

A box thought to be made from fragments of the barrel which transported Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson's body back to Britain has sold at auction for 8,160.

The commemorative box had been expected to fetch between 800 and 1,200.

It was among Nelson memorabilia being sold by Bonhams in London, which also included letters, a mourning ring and invitations from his funeral.

Norfolk-born Nelson died after being shot on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar off Spain in 1805.

Lot 435 was the silver-mounted oak commemorative box, which is thought to have been made from the water barrel which transported his body back to Portsmouth onboard the ship.

The barrel was filled with brandy to preserve the body and this had to be replenished several times during the journey.

'Folk hero'

Lionel Willis, marine specialist at Bonhams, said the ship would not have had a coffin on board when Nelson died.

He said: "It was normal for them to just throw bodies over the side. They would wrap them in their hammocks and attach a cannonball.

"The only thing which would have been big enough to carry him was a water barrel, made from oak."

Mr Willis said Nelson had an actual coffin waiting in the UK, which was made from the mast of the French flagship sunk in the Battle of the Nile.

Mr Willis said of Nelson "He still strikes a chord with people, he's a bit of a folk hero."

Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe in 1758 and joined his uncle's ship as a seaman in 1771 before being appointed a midshipman.

He moved through the ranks of the Royal Navy before taking command of a ship, the brig HMS Badger, in 1778.

In 1794, Nelson was wounded and blinded in one eye by cannon fire in Corsica.

Nelson lost his right arm at the battle of Santa Cruz in Tenerife in 1797.

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