Nelson's Column
Nelson's Column is a monument
A monument is a type of structure either explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, or simply as an example of historic architecture...

 in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

 in central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

 built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

 in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to a design by William Railton
William Railton
William Railton was an English architect, best known as the designer of Nelson's Column. He was based in London with offices at 12 Regent Street for much of his career.He was a pupil of the London architect and surveyor William Inwood....

 at a cost of £47,000. It is a column of the Corinthian order built from Dartmoor granite. The Craigleith sandstone statue of Nelson is by E. H. Baily
Edward Hodges Baily
Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS - was an English sculptor who was born in Downend in Bristol.-Life:...

 and the four bronze lions on the base, added in 1867, were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer.

The pedestal
Pedestal is a term generally applied to the support of a statue or a vase....

 is decorated with four bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 relief panels, each 18 feet square,cast from captured French guns. They depict the Battle of Cape St Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen and the Death of Nelson at Trafalgar. The sculptors were Musgrave Watson
Musgrave Watson
Musgrave Lewthwaite Watson was an English sculptor of the early 19th century.Watson was born in Cumberland, being christened on 8 March 1804 at Hawksdale, near Dalston. His parents were prosperous farmers, who also owned an iron-forge...

, William F Woodington
William F Woodington
William Frederick Woodington was a notable English painter and sculptor of the 19th century.He was born in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire William Frederick Woodington (10 February 1806 - 24 December 1893) was a notable English painter and sculptor of the 19th century.He was born in Sutton...

, John Ternouth
John Ternouth
John Ternouth was an English sculptor of the early 19th century. His most notable work is one of the four panels at the base of Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square, depicting the Battle of Copenhagen.-Life:...

 and John Edward Carew
John Edward Carew
John Edward Carew was a notable Irish sculptor during the 19th century. His most prominent work is the Death of Nelson - one of the four bronze panels on the pedestal of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.-Life:...


It was refurbished in 2006 at a cost of £420,000, at which time it was surveyed and found to be 4.4 metres shorter than previously supposed. The whole monument is 169 ft 3ins (51.59 metres) tall from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson's hat.

Construction and history

In February 1838 a group of 121 peers, MPs and other gentry formed a committee to raise a monument to Lord Nelson, funded by public subscription, and the Government agreed to provide a site in Trafalgar Square, in front of the newly completed National Gallery
National gallery
The National Gallery is an art gallery on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom.National Gallery may also refer to:*Armenia: National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan*Australia:**National Gallery of Australia, Canberra...

. A competition was held for designs with an estimated budget of between £20,000 and £30,000. The deadline for submissions was January 31, 1839.

The winning entry, chosen by a sub-committee headed by the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 was a design by William Railton
William Railton
William Railton was an English architect, best known as the designer of Nelson's Column. He was based in London with offices at 12 Regent Street for much of his career.He was a pupil of the London architect and surveyor William Inwood....

 for a Corinthian column, surmounted by a statue of Nelson, and flanked by four sculpted lions. Flights of steps would lead up between the lions
to the pedestal of the column. Several other entrants also submitted schemes for columns. The second prize was won by Edward Hodges Baily
Edward Hodges Baily
Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS - was an English sculptor who was born in Downend in Bristol.-Life:...

 who suggested an obelisk surrounded by sculptures.

Criticism of the organisation of the competition caused it to be rerun. Railton submitted a slightly revised design, and was once again declared the winner, with the stipulation that the statue of Nelson should be made by EH Baily. The original plan was for a column 203 feet high, including the base and statue, but this was reduced to 170 feet, with a shaft of 98 feet, due to concerns over stability. The base was to have been of granite and the shaft of Craigleith sandstone,but before construction began, it was decided that shaft should also be of granite.

Excavations for the brick foundations had begun by July 1840. On 30 September 1840, the first stone of the column was laid by Charles Davison Scott, honorary secretary of the committee (and son of Nelson's secretary, John Scott), at a ceremony conducted, according to the Nautical Magazine, "in a private manner, owing to the noblemen and gentlemen comprising the committee being absent from town". Construction of the monument, by the contractors Grissell and Peto progressed slowly, and the stonework, ready for the installation of the statue was not completed until November 1843.

In 1844 the Nelson Memorial Committee ran out of money, having only raised £20,485 in public subscriptions, and the Government, in the form of the Office of Woods and Forests took over the project. Controversy over the effect that the design of the base of the column would have on views of the National Gallery led to the removal of the flights of steps.

Installation of the bronze reliefs on the pedestal did not begin until late 1849, when John Edward Carew's depiction of the death of Nelson was put in place on the side facing Whitehall. This was followed early the next year by William F. Woodington's relief of the Battle of the Nile on the opposite side. Carew's relief was cast by Adams, Christie and Co. of Rotherhithe. The other three were cast by Moore, Fressange and Moore. The last to be made, The Battle of Cape St Vincent became the subject of legal action, when it was discovered that the bronze had been adulterated with iron. The partners in the company were jailed for fraud and the relief was completed by Robinson and Cottam. It was finally put in place in May 1854.

The 5.5 m (18 ft) statue at the top was sculpted by Edward Hodges Baily
Edward Hodges Baily
Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS - was an English sculptor who was born in Downend in Bristol.-Life:...

 R.A. from three pieces of Craigleith sandstone donated by the Duke of Buccleuch, former chairman of the Nelson Memorial Committee, from his own quarries.

The statue stands on a fluted column built from solid blocks of granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 from the Foggintor quarries on Dartmoor
Dartmoor is an area of moorland in south Devon, England. Protected by National Park status, it covers .The granite upland dates from the Carboniferous period of geological history. The moorland is capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors, providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The...

. The Corinthian capital is made of bronze elements, cast from cannon salvaged from the wreck of HMS Royal George
HMS Royal George (1756)
HMS Royal George was a 100-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Woolwich Dockyard and launched on 18 February 1756...

 at the Woolwich Arsenal foundry. It is based one from the Temple of Mars Ultor in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and was modelled by C.H. Smith.. The bronze pieces, some weighing as much as are fixed to the column by the means of three large belts of metal lying in grooves in the stone.

The four identical bronze lions at the column's base were not added until 1867. At one stage, they were intended to be of granite, and the sculptor John Graham Lough
John Graham Lough
John Graham Lough was an English sculptor known for his funerary monuments and a variety of portrait sculpture. He also produced ideal classical male and female figures.-Life:...

 was chosen to carve them. However, in 1846, after consultations with Railton, he turned down the commission, unwilling to work under the restrictions imposed by the architect. The sculptures eventually installed, commissioned in 1858, were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer in collaboration with Baron Marochetti
Carlo Marochetti
Baron Carlo Marochetti was a sculptor, born in Turin but raised in Paris as a French citizen.-Life:Carlo Marochetti was born on 4 January 1805. His first teachers were François Joseph Bosio and Antoine-Jean Gros in Paris. Here his statue of A Young Girl playing with a Dog won a medal in 1829, and...

. Landseer was paid £6,000 for his services, and Marochetti £11,000.

In 1925 a Scottish con artist
Confidence trick
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...

, Arthur Furguson, "sold" the landmark to an unknowing American (he also "sold" Big Ben and Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

). The column also had some symbolic importance to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. If Hitler's plan to invade Britain, Operation Sea Lion, had been successful, he planned to move it to Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...



The column was refurbished in 2006, during which time it was scaffolded from top to bottom for access. Steam cleaning was used together with gentle abrasives to minimise any harmful impact on the bronze and stonework. The £420,000 cost was covered by Zurich Financial Services
Zurich Financial Services
Zurich Financial Services AG is a major financial services group based in Zurich, Switzerland.-History:The Company was founded in 1872 as subsidiary of the Schweiz Marine Insurance Company under the name Versicherung Verein...

, which advertised on the scaffolding for the duration of the work. Before restoration began, laser surveys were taken during which it was found that the column was significantly shorter than the usually quoted 56 m (185 ft). In fact, it measures 51.6 m (169.5 ft) from the bottom of the first step on the pedestal to the tip of the admiral's hat.


John Noakes
John Noakes
John Noakes is a British television presenter and personality, best known for co-presenting the BBC children's magazine programme Blue Peter in the 1960s and 1970s. He remains the show's longest-serving presenter, with a stint that lasted 12 years and 6 months...

 of the BBC TV children's programme Blue Peter
Blue Peter
Blue Peter is the world's longest-running children's television show, having first aired in 1958. It is shown on CBBC, both in its BBC One programming block and on the CBBC channel. During its history there have been many presenters, often consisting of two women and two men at a time...

climbed the column in the late 1970s. TV presenter and entertainer Gary Wilmot climbed the column in 1989 for LWT's 'Six O' Clock Show' to recreate the 'topping out' ceremony of 1843. Dressed in Victorian attire and sporting a boater hat, Wilmott enjoyed tea and sandwiches at the top of the column before climbing down.
Peter Germenis of the United States also climbed in 1976. Reportedly on a pub wager.
The column has also been climbed on several occasions as a publicity stunt
Publicity stunt
A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs...

 to draw attention to social or political causes. Ed Drummond made the first such climb in 1979 for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, making use of the lightning conductor en route. On 13 April 1995 Simon Nadin free-climbed Nelson's Column with Noel Craine, Jerry Moffat
Jerry Moffat
Jerry Moffatt is a rock climber from Leicestershire, England.He came into the spotlight in the early 1980s with important ascents such as the 2nd asc...

 and Johnny Dawes
Johnny Dawes
Johnny Dawes is a British rock climber. He is famous for his dynamic style and often very bold ascents. His influence on British climbing was at its peak in the mid to late-1980s...

 following on top rope, and graded
Grade (climbing)
In rock climbing, mountaineering and other climbing disciplines, climbers give a climbing grade to a route that concisely describes the difficulty and danger of climbing the route...

 the climb as "E6 6b/5a". This protest time was on behalf of Survival International
Survival International
Survival International is a human rights organisation formed in 1969 that campaigns for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples and uncontacted peoples, seeking to help them to determine their own future. Their campaigns generally focus on tribal peoples' fight to keep their ancestral lands,...

 to publicise the plight of Canada's Inuit people. In May 2003 BASE jumper
BASE jumping
BASE jumping, also sometimes written as B.A.S.E jumping, is an activity that employs an initially packed parachute to jump from fixed objects...

 and stuntman
Stunt performer
A stuntman, or daredevil is someone who performs dangerous stunts, often as a career.These stunts are sometimes rigged so that they look dangerous while still having safety mechanisms, but often they are as dangerous as they appear to be...

 Gary Connery parachuted from the top of the column to draw attention to the Chinese policies in Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...


Other monuments to Nelson

The first civic monument to be erected in Nelson's honour was a 44-metre high obelisk on Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green is a park situated in the east end of Glasgow on the north bank of the River Clyde. It is the oldest park in the city dating back to the 15th century.In 1450, King James II granted the land to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow...

 in Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, Scotland, in 1806. Also in Scotland, the Nelson Monument stands on top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Calton Hill is a hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland, just to the east of the New Town. Views of, and from, the hill are often used in photographs and paintings of the city....

, and there is also a Nelson's Tower in Forres
Forres , is a town and former royal burgh situated in the north of Scotland on the Moray coast, approximately 30 miles east of Inverness. Forres has been a winner of the Scotland in Bloom award on several occasions...

, Moray
Moray is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland. It lies in the north-east of the country, with coastline on the Moray Firth, and borders the council areas of Aberdeenshire and Highland.- History :...

. In Dublin, Ireland, Nelson's Pillar
Nelson's Pillar
The Nelson Pillar , known locally as Nelson's Pillar or simply The Pillar, was a large granite pillar topped by a statue of Horatio Nelson in the middle of O'Connell Street, Dublin...

 was erected in 1808 but was destroyed by the IRA in 1966, and in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England, there is a Grade II* listed bronze statue of Nelson
Statue of Horatio Nelson, Birmingham
The Statue of Horatio Nelson by Richard Westmacott Jr., RA stands in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England.-Subscription:This bronze statue was the first publicly funded statue in Birmingham, and the first statue of Horatio Nelson in Britain...

 by Richard Westmacott
Richard Westmacott
Sir Richard Westmacott, Jr., RA was a British sculptor.-Life and career:He studied under his father, Richard Westmacott the Elder, before going to Rome in 1793 to study under Antonio Canova...

, dating from 1809. Sir Richard Westmacott
Richard Westmacott
Sir Richard Westmacott, Jr., RA was a British sculptor.-Life and career:He studied under his father, Richard Westmacott the Elder, before going to Rome in 1793 to study under Antonio Canova...

 also designed the elaborate monument to Nelson in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. In Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

, Nelson's Needle, on top of Portsdown Hill
Portsdown Hill
Portsdown Hill is a long chalk hill in Hampshire, England, offering good views over Portsmouth, The Solent, Hayling Island and Gosport, with the Isle of Wight beyond. The hill is on the mainland, just to the north of Ports Creek, which separates the mainland from Portsea Island, on which lies the...

, was paid for by the company of after arriving back in Portsmouth. There is a column topped with a decorative urn in the Castle Green, Hereford
Hereford is a cathedral city, civil parish and county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately east of the border with Wales, southwest of Worcester, and northwest of Gloucester...

 – a statue was planned in place of the urn, but insufficient money was raised. The Britannia Monument
Britannia Monument
The Britannia Monument is a commemorative column or tower built in memorial to Admiral Horatio Nelson, situated on the Denes, Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk, England....

, Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth, often known to locals as Yarmouth, is a coastal town in Norfolk, England. It is at the mouth of the River Yare, east of Norwich.It has been a seaside resort since 1760, and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the sea...

, England (1819) is a 144 feet high doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 column design.

Elsewhere in the world, Nelson's Column in Montreal
Nelson's Column, Montreal
Nelson's Column is a monument in Place Jacques-Cartier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.Installed on the Place Jacques-Cartier in 1809, Nelson's column was the second monument to be erected in Montreal.- History :...

 was erected by the merchants of that Canadian city in 1809, and there is also a Mount Nelson, near Invermere, British Columbia
Invermere, British Columbia
Invermere is a community in eastern British Columbia, Canada, near the border of Alberta. With its growing permanent population of almost 4,000 , swelling to near 40,000 on summer weekends, it is the hub of the Columbia Valley between Golden, and Cranbrook...

. A much shorter statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown
The city of Bridgetown , metropolitan pop 96,578 , is the capital and largest city of the nation of Barbados. Formerly, the Town of Saint Michael, the Greater Bridgetown area is located within the parish of Saint Michael...

, Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

is older than its counterpart in London.

External links

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