One of the most notable tourist spots in London is Trafalgar Square, and if you ever pay it a visit you’ll notice that it is impossible not to notice the high monument that towers over the area.

This magnificent monument is Nelson’s Column and has a rich heritage and history, earning its place in the centre of London. We take a closer look at this towering slice of history.

Admiral Nelson

The Column was erected in commemoration of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson was a British flag officer who served in the Royal Navy. One of his greatest achievements was the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. However, this also happened to be the battle in which he was fatally wounded.

Nelsons Column
One of London’s most famous tourist sites it is definitely worth a visit.

The column was created for Admiral Nelson, costing approximately £47,000, but it wasn’t actually until around 40 years after Nelson’s death that the column was created. Better late than never!

Raising the Column

Although his efforts were celebrated at the time, it wasn’t until 1838 that people decided to create a committee to raise a monument in Nelson’s memory. When it came to the column’s design, there was a competition held for the most fitting design. The winning entry came in the form of a Corinthian column suggested by one William Railton.

The Column

The column is fashioned after the one found in Rome at the Temple of Mars Ultor. Although it was originally intended to climb 203 feet into the air, inclusive of the base and statue, due to stability concerns it was later limited to 170 feet, with a shaft of 98 feet.

The fluted column is created from Dartmoor granite blocks. The Corinthian capital is made of bronze and cast from cannon salvaged from the wreck of the HMS Royal George.

The Statue

Atop the column is an 18 foot sandstone statue of Admiral Nelson. The sandstone was donated by the Duke of Buccleuch from his very own quarries and was sculpted into the likeness of Nelson by Edward Hodges Baily. Dodging the pigeons is a daily challenge for Nelson, but the statue is quite impressive atop the column.

Trafalgar Lions

Obviously Nelson’s Column consists of the pillar itself, but what some people overlook is the fact that the four lions that surround the column are an essential and integral part of the monument as a whole. The four lions stand stoically around the column, almost as guardians of the great individual. Created out of bronze, the four lions are very iconically British and have really earned their place in the square.

A British Icon

Maybe it’s the very British lions that surround it, perhaps it’s the British hero of Nelson at its centre, or maybe it’s simply due to its position in the centre of London, but for whatever reason, Nelson’s column has become an iconic monument to British culture, and a must-see for any tourist.

Nelsons column statue
This is a part of British culture.

Hitler’s Obsession

It’s not only patriotic Brits and London tourists that are impressed by Nelson’s Column. During his time in power and whilst he was planning an invasion of Britain, Hitler took such a shine to the column that he planned to have it shipped over to Berlin once Britain had been occupied.

Of course, we all know that never came to be, but this simply shows the enduring appeal the column has to ALL types of people.

Modern Heritage

So the column has stood magnificently in the centre of London for years and celebrates the heritage of Admiral Nelson. But not only this, the column has been a focal point for publicity stunts as a means of drawing attention to various causes. The first such climb of this ilk was the ascent made by Ed Drummond for the Anti-Apartheid movement.


Nelson’s Column is a fantastic tourist spot for people to visit when in London. Far more than just an aesthetic landmark, Nelson’s Column has a very rich history and heritage earning it pride of place in the nation’s capital.

Image Credits: Jimmy Harris and Ell Brown

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