Nelson’s Column | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Nelson’s Column

London, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

11 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Nelson’s Column

Nelson’s Column is a tribute to one of British history’s greatest men: Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, victor of many naval battles, including the Battle of Trafalgar (hence the name of the square).

Nelson’s Column history

The Battle of Trafalgar took place on 21 October 1805 against the French and Spanish Navies, and was one of the most decisive victories in British naval history. It was at this famous clash that Admiral Lord Nelson lost his life however, after being shot while aboard the HMS Victory. Upon hearing the news, George III tearfully lamented, “We have lost more than we have gained.”

In February 1838, a committee was formed to oversee the construction of a monument to Nelson, which began in 1840 and was completed by 1867, when the iconic lions were added at the base of the column.

The monument consisted of a statue of Nelson looking down at the square from the top of his 52m (170 foot) column, decorated at its foot by reliefs of Nelson’s victories and guarded by four Barbary lions, designed by Landseer. The statue of Admiral Nelson himself is 5m (17 feet) high.

Since its construction Nelson’s Column has towered over the City of London and has stood as a symbol of British prestige and strength. During World War Two, Adolf Hitler even set his sights on the monument and planned to move it to Berlin should his plan to invade Britain, Operation Sea Lion, be a success. Thankfully it wasn’t, and Nelson’s Column remains one of London’s most recognisable landmarks.

Nelson’s Column today

Today Nelson’s Column is the best known of the statues in Trafalgar Square, which also includes an equestrian statue of George V and statues of Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock. A fourth plinth has remained empty since 1840, and is currently used for a series of exhibits by British artists.

Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column stands, is well known for a variety of uses: the Christmas tree donated each year by the Norwegians in thanks for their liberation at the end of World War Two; political rallies of all descriptions; pigeons (once fed, now evicted); and, of course, New Year’s Eve celebrations. On a more cultural note, on the north side of the square stands the National Gallery, home to some of the world’s most famous art.

Getting to Nelson’s Column

Nelson’s Column is located in Trafalgar Square in London, and can be reached via a number of public transport options. The closest Underground station is Charing Cross, whose exit/entrance is on the square itself, while Charing Cross train station is a 3-minute walk away. A number of bus services also run to the surrounding streets, including Strand and Cockspur St.

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