Nelson's Column is one of the most famous tourist attractions in London along with Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and the British Museum. Erected in memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of Britain's most reknowned heroes, the Devonshire granite column stands 187 feet high in Trafalgar Square (named after Nelson's fourth great sea battle at which he lost his life).
In 1838, the Nelson Monument Committee who had been put in charge of creating a memorial for the great Admiral, decided to have a competiton to determine the design. The competition had 124 entries, 40 of which were models, the winner being William Railton who came up with the design of the gigantic Corinthian coloumn. The monument was begun in 1840 and took three years to complete, the lion 'guardians' not being put in place until 1868. The original designers of Trafalgar Square were also opposed to the monumetn at first, as they felt this would diminsh the impressive of the landscape it was to be placed in.
The column is made up of five different pieces:
- The Lions
Sitting at the four corners of the base of the column are four lions cast in Bronze and were designed separately by Edwin Landseer as Railton sadly died before their completion. They are meant to show Nelson's calm resolve.
- The Base
The column base is decorated with four bronze plaques, each one depicting in relief one of Nelsons four great sea battles. The bronze is rumoured to have come from a French cannon captured at the Battle of Trafalgar, though this is unsubstantiated.
- The Column
Railton originally wanted the column to stand at 200ft, but after his death this was reduced to 170ft at the request of several worried parties. It is though to be a copy of a corinthian column from a temple of Mars in Rome, and is the tallest corinthian column in the world.
- The Capital
The capital is designed in the corinthian style to fit with the column and is, therefore, decorated with acanthus leaves. It is, like the lions, also cast in bronze.
- The Statue
The statue of Nelson which crowns the column was designed by the monument competitions second prize winner, Edmund Hodges Bailey. The statue stands 17ft tall, making the column height 187ft in total. (This also means that the face of Nelson is obscured to people looking up from the ground.) The statue weighs 17 tonnes and is a popular roost of the innumerable pigeons that plague Trafalgar Square.
You can 'explore' Nelson's Column at