"on Trafalgar Square, watch them building Nelson’s Column"


Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
Public DomainNelson's Column in Trafalgar Square - Credit: David Castor

Trafalgar Square, in central London, commemorates Britain’s victory over France in the naval Battle of Trafalgar (1805), part of the Napoleonic Wars. Until the early nineteenth century, the area was occupied by the King’s Mews – the blocks where the royal horses and carriages were stabled. In the 1820s, John Nash was commissioned by George IV to clear the area, as the Mews had been transferred. He drew plans to leave the whole area open, except for one building which was to be the Royal Academy. Work was slow and a new plan was drawn up in 1840 by Sir Charles Barry, including terraces and fountains. The square was opened to the public in May 1844, although work continued for some time afterwards.

Nelson’s Column was a separate initiative, which Barry did not approve of. Admiral Horatio Nelson, naval commander, had died at the Battle of Trafalgar and a memorial committee constructed the column between 1840 and 1843. 169 ft 3 ins (51.59m) tall, the column is of granite, topped with a statue of Nelson and decorated with four bronze relief panels. Four golden lions surround the base, sculpted by Sir Edward Landseer.

Trafalgar Square is one of London’s icons, a popular tourist attraction and a space much used for public demonstrations, exhibitions and celebrations.