The building of Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square, began on 30 September 1840 and completed in 1843. The 56 m (171 feet) high column is made from granite and features acanthus leaves, cast from British cannons at the top. At the very top stands a 5.5m (18 feet) statue of Nelson
The erection of this monument to Britain’s greatest Naval commander was the source of much delay and politicking. Originally conceived as a bronze statue the publicly subscribed fund could not afford this and so it was made of solid granite quarried from the estate of then Duke of Buccleuch, in Scotland.
The designer of this monument was a Mr William Railton and the sculptor a Mr E H Bailey and the four bronze lions on the base, added in 1867, were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer.
The night before the official unveiling of the statue the stone masons and other workers held a banquet at the top of the column.
The pedestal is decorated with four bronze relief panels, each 18 feet (5.5 m) 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, William F Woodington, John Ternouth and John Edward Carew respectively.
It was refurbished in 2006 at a cost of £420,000, at which time it was surveyed and found to be 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) shorter than previously supposed. The whole monument is 169 ft 3 in (51.6 m) tall from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson’s hat.
The First Civic Monument
The first civic monument to be erected in Nelson’s honour was a 44-metre high obelisk on Glasgow Green in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1806. Also in Scotland, the Nelson Monument stands on top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, and there is also a Nelson’s Tower in Forres, Moray.
In Dublin, Ireland, Nelson’s Pillar was erected in 1808 but was destroyed by republicans in 1966, and in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England, there is a Grade II* listed bronze statue of Nelson by Richard Westmacott, dating from 1809.
Sir Richard Westmacott also designed the elaborate monument to Nelson in Liverpool. In Portsmouth, Nelson’s Needle, on top of Portsdown Hill, was paid for by the company of HMS Victory after arriving back in Portsmouth.
There is a column topped with a decorative urn in the Castle Green, Hereford – a statue was planned in place of the urn, but insufficient money was raised. The Britannia Monument, Great Yarmouth, England (1819) is a 144 feet high doric column design.
Elsewhere in the world, Nelson’s Column in Montreal was erected by both British and French citizens in 1809, and there is also a Mount Nelson, near Invermere, British Columbia.
As at London, the column in Montreal has the admiral standing with his back to the waves.
A statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown, Barbados is older than its counterpart in London and much shorter.