26 South Quay is a Grade II listed building with an illustrious history. In the 17th century, the building was home to Sir George England, who steered Great Yarmouth through the Parliamentary and Royalist periods of the Civil War. He was chairman of the committee which welcomed Charles II to Yarmouth in September 1671, when he received his knighthood. In the early 18th century, in common with most of the South Quay merchant houses, No. 26 was stripped of its Tudor features and given its present Georgian façade. This is the appearance that Nelson would have known. Great Yarmouth was then a bustling port, a hive of commerce, and the fleet often assembled and returned there, as it did for the Battle for Copenhagen in 1801.
The building itself has been altered very little over the course of its history, with the exception of modern partitions being inserted. In 1998, after ten years of vacancy, Purcell Miller Tritton and Partners were commissioned to undertake a feasibility study and concluded that the building was suitable for conversion into a museum. Being situated in the historic South Quay conservation area and in close proximity to other museums, the Central Library and the Tolhouse Gaol, the building was to form an integral part of the Great Yarmouth Heritage Trail.
The Ben Burgess Nelson Memorabilia collection, a registered charity, set up an appeal to raise funds to provide a museum relating to the life and time of Horatio Lord Nelson at 26 South Quay. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh was the foremost of the illustrious patrons of the appeal. In March 1999, the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust purchased 26 South Quay to refurbish it for use under lease to the Norfolk Nelson Museum.
Funding was secured with seven partners: EEDA, SRB, GYBC, EH, Port Authority, GYPT and the Ben Burgess Trust.
The Nelson Museum was opened in 2002. Unfortunately, funding issues and falling visitor numbers forced the museum to close in October 2019. Options for future use are currently being explored.