Essential Architecture-  London

Nelson's Column


William Railton


Trafalgar Square






5.5m (18ft) statue of Nelson stands on top of a 46 m (151 ft) granite column



The column was built between 1840 and 1843 to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The 5.5m (18ft) statue of Nelson stands on top of a 46 m (151 ft) granite column. The statue faces south, towards the Palace of Westminster and along Pall Mall, where his ships are represented on the top of each flagpole. The top of the Corinthian column (based on one from the Temple of Mars Ultor in Rome) is decorated with bronze acanthus leaves cast from British cannons. The square pedestal is decorated with four bronze panels, cast from captured French guns, depicting Nelson's four great victories.

The monument was designed by architect William Railton in 1838, and built by the firm Peto & Grissell. Railton's original 1:22-scale stone model is exhibited at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The sandstone statue at the top was sculpted by E.H. Baily of the Royal Academy; a small bronze plaque crediting him is at the base of the statue. The entire monument was built at a cost of 47,500 pounds, or 3.5 million pounds in 2004 terms.

The column was refurbished in 2006. It was scaffolded from top to bottom for access. Steam cleaning was used together with gentle abrasives to minimise any harmful impact on the brass and stonework. The work was being undertaken by David Ball Restoration Ltd. of Peckham, south London, which also handles maintenance for about 60 other monuments around London. The 420,000 pound cost was met by the Zurich Insurance, 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 185ft. In fact, it is only 169ft 5in from the bottom of the first step on the pedestal to the tip of the admiral's hat.

Nelson's Column was the first of many English buildings to be abducted in the animated film, Freddie as F.R.O.7.
In May 2003 a BASE jumper parachuted from the top of the column to draw attention to the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
In September 2005 a poster that stretched the height of the column, celebrating London's triumphant bid for the 2012 Olympics, was displayed. It was unfurled by acrobats in a ceremony to commemorate the win.
Nelson's Column is a frequently cited unit of height measurement, along with places such as St Paul's Cathedral and the Eifel Tower.

Other monuments to Nelson
In the Bull Ring, Birmingham, England, there is a Grade II* listed bronze statue of Nelson by Richard Westmacott, dating from 1809.
In Dublin, Ireland, Nelson's Pillar, was erected in 1808 and blown up by a rogue IRA group in 1966.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, Nelson's Monument is a tower commemorating Admiral Horatio Nelson, on top of Calton Hill
In Montreal, Place Jacques-Cartier is a Nelson column erected by the British merchants of the city in 1808.
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. BBC site with photograph.
The Britannia Monument, Great Yarmouth, England (1819) is a 144 feet high doric column design.

Nelson's Four Victories
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of the Nile
Battle of Copenhagen
Battle of Cape St. Vincent