Address: Trafalgar Square, London

300m from Charing Cross

50m from Charing Cross

Address: Trafalgar Square, London

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Taking pride of place in Trafalgar Square in the centre of London, Nelson’s Column is the ultimate monument to a British hero. It’s dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson, later Lord Nelson, who commanded the British fleet to a number of important naval victories including the Battle of Trafalgar where he lost his life.

The idea of a monument was suggested in Parliament in 1818, but it wasn’t until 1838 that it was acted upon. A committee headed by the Duke of Wellington was appointed with the £47,500 cost of the project being met by private donations of which the Tsar of Russia gave £12,000. The equivalent cost today would be £3m. It was erected in 1843 in front of a crowd of 100,000. John Nash had just redesigned the area for the Prince Regent with a magnificent square and it was felt that this was the perfect location.

William Railton designed the 169.5ft column and sculptor Edward Hodges Baily the figure of Nelson. Baily used sandstone and built the figure in three parts – the lower body, the upper body, and the left arm and sword, with the latter being used as part of the lightning conductor. The figure of Nelson has a King’s medal with ‘Nile’ engraved on it. There is an original scale model of the column in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

The top of the column has bronze leaves made from cannons and the four bronze panels around the base are made from captured French guns. The four panels show each of his four major naval victories – the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797), Battle of the Nile (1798), Battle of Copenhagen (1801) and Battle of Trafalgar (1805). The latter depicts his final hours. Surrounding the column are four enormous bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer. They are 12ft high and were put in place in 1867. The monument was struck by lightning in 1896 suffering minor damage. It was cleaned in 2006 in an operation costing £430,000 and using six miles of scaffolding.

When talking about landmarks in central London, this is perhaps the most central. It’s widely believed that the centre of London is the statue of Charles I, which is near the south side of Nelson’s Column.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.