The area which is now The Burnhams was grazing land until the Anglo-Saxon period of the 6th and 7th centuries. Then at the junction of two small rivers, a settlement was established. Its name came from the Anglo-Saxon words for river (burn) and the name for a small settlement (ham). The river was also called the river Burn and thus Burn-ham was established in what is now the area between Friars Lane and the river, near its junction with the Goosebeck.
Sometime later, another settlement was established on the slightly higher ground opposite this first settlement. Called Overy it had the meaning "over the river" in Anglo-Saxon. The river would have been easily navigable for coastal trading up to this point and it was probably as a port, that Burnham and Overy first prospered. Norton and Sutton were established shortly afterwards (Norton meaning "North-town" and Sutton, "South-town") as daughter settlements to the main village ("-ham" in Anglo-Saxon meant the main settlement and "-ton" later satellite settlements). Deepdale, as its name implies, was established in a deep dry valley on the western boundary of this Saxon estate and became an important local centre for the extraction of salt from the nearby marshes. Later still, following the invasion of the Danes in the 8th and 9th centuries, the village of Thorpe was established ("thorpe" meaning settlement in Danish) and was probably situated at what was the navigational head of the river Burn. In the Domesday Book, an area to the west of the then village of Burnham was described as being held by a Danish Lord named Ulf (Danish for Wolf), which is the probable derivation of the Ulph of today. At that time the area of Overy was described as Burnham, whilst Deepdale and Thorpe appear as separate entries. Lastly, a settlement grew further still to the west of Ulph, called Westgate ("gatte" meant "street" in Anglo-Saxon). All these little villages were separate entities established around local churches, although settlement patterns changed as the original "Burnham" fell into disuse and the people of Norton moved away from their church to an area close by the coast (possibly to extract salt from the marshes, seeing that the villagers of Deepdale were thriving?).
Until the 13th century the area between Ulph and Westgate was still used simply for grazing. It is known that an open market had been established alongside the Goosebeck in 1209 and in 1272 rights were given to William Calthrop to hold a Fair in that area. Over the centuries, this market began to thrive as a centre for local produce and was gradually established on a permanent basis. The market stalls became more solidly built and in many cases then became sheds and then barns to store the produce being sold. In due time the structures were replaced by more permanent buildings and between the 16th and 18th centuries, traders set up in business in the ground floors of dwellings with their families "living over the shop". At the western end, the "market" was largely set back from the marshy area near the Goosebeck, although some buildings (The Shambles) stood forward and were only demolished some forty years ago. At its eastern end, the market buildings were more densely packed and became aligned either side of what is now North Street (formerly Back Street) and Front Street. The Nelson sits proudly at the eastern end of Front Street. This market area thus became the most economically important and viable element of the "Burnhams". In maps of the 19th century the main village is still described as Burnham Westgate and "Burnham Market" is the more modern title for this area.
The Nelson was first recorded at a public house called 'The Mermaid' in 1685. Horatio Nelson's father, Edmund, was the rector of All Saint's Church at Ulph (directly opposite the pub) and was present when The Mermaid was renamed in tribute as 'The Admiral Nelson' in 1805, directly after the Battle of Trafalgar. This theme was copied in Burnham Thorpe some 2 years later when 'The Plough' became 'The Lord Nelson' in 1807.
During the following 200 years, the name changed from 'The Admiral Nelson' to 'The Admiral Lord Nelson', then to 'The Lord Nelson'. In 2005, on the 200th Anniversary of the pub's name, Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, the name was drastically changed to 'The Jockey', following a change of ownership. This change did not go down to well with the local community; as the bunting was out in the streets in celebration of the 200th Anniversary!
In 2011, we bought 'The Jockey' and immediately set about restoring her identity; calling her simply 'The Nelson'. Following an extensive renovation, we opened on 27th May 2011 to start a new chapter in the history of this phenomenal building.
Some information taken from the Borough Councils 'The Burnham Market Village Plan' from notes taken by Stuart Murphy, from a lecture given by Chad Goodwin to the Burnham Market Society in October 2001.