Keys to the Past


Davison, Alexander

Alexander Davison (1750-1829) was a contractor who provided supplies to the navy, and was best known for his friendship with Admiral Nelson. He was born near Woooler and, as a young man, travelled to London for work in a counting-house. However, he soon moved to Canada with his brother, where he became a successful shipowner. He returned to England and married in 1788. He provided supplies to the government, including army uniforms, weapons and transport, for over twenty years. He became a very wealthy man and entertained important figures including the Prince of Wales and William Pitt. He also used his wealth to buy Swarland Hall and Park near Alnwick, in 1795, on which he spent much money improving the building and grounds. However, in the early 1800s he was accused of defrauding the government and in 1804 spent a year in the Marshalsea Prison. He was convicted again in 1809 and was ordered to repay over £18,000 and was sentenced to another 21 months in prison. These scandals ruined his reputation, and he was forced to sell his London house and many of his possessions. He died after a short illness in 1829 and was buried in Kirknewton churchyard. His son, William, later erected an obelisk to his memory on the hill overlooking the church.

He first met Horatio Nelson in Canada. He became a close friend of Nelson's, as well as his financial advisor and prize agent. When Nelson died Davison was a leading mourner, and he erected a column on his estate at Swarland Park to commemorate their friendship.

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