Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Trafalgar Square: Nelson's Column

The Unfinished City
Nelson's Column.

Whenever you visit Trafalgar Square it is impossible to miss Nelson's Column, on its pedestal, surrounded by four bronze lions. However, getting a good view of Lord Nelson, at the top of the column, is not so easy.

The Unfinished City
Nelson's Column.

It is strange, now, to think that when the square was being designed it was to be named for King George IV, in celebration of his ascension to the throne. When this was changed and it was decided to name it after Lord Horatio Nelson the plans still did not include a column, nor fountains.

The Unfinished City
Erin and Keilyn sitting with one of the bronze lions.

Brief History

Nelson's Column was designed by William Railton, with construction taking place between 1840 - 1843. From the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson's hat was, reportedly, 185 ft (56.4 m). However, during the monument's refurbishment, in 2006, it was remeasured and found to be 169 ft (51.5 m).

The column is made from granite, with the crown being made of bronze, while Nelson's statue, which stands at 18 ft 1 in (5.5 m), is made of sandstone.

Around the pedestal are four bronze reliefs, each depicting a famous scene from Nelson's Military life; The death of Nelson, The Battle of the Nile, The Bombardment of Copenhagen and The Battle of Cape St. Vincent. These were installed between 1849 and 1854.

Each relief is 18 ft (5 m) square and is made of bronze. The bronze comes from melted down cannon, captured from the French and Spanish.

The bronze lions, around the pedestal, were also to have been made from granite, but the sculptor, John Graham Lough, couldn't work with the limitations imposed on him, so left the project. Sir Edwin Landseer was then commissioned to sculpt the lions. Landseer requested a dead lion be transported to his studio, from London Zoo, so that he could get the proportions correct. However, as Landseer was taking so long, due to ill health, the lion began to decompose and parts of it had to discarded. Landseer completed the lions by copying the hind quarters of his dog and its paws, allegedly. The lions were finally added in 1867.

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