Nelson’s Column

Nelson’s Column

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Nelson’s Column is a tribute to one of the great men in British history: Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, victor of many naval battles, including the Battle of Trafalgar (hence the name of the square).

Despite the fact that this battle was one of the most decisive victories in British naval history, it was also at this famous clash that Admiral Lord Nelson lost his life in 1805. Constructed in the nineteenth century, Nelson’s Column commemorates the death of this iconic figure.

He looks down at the square from the top of his 52m (170 foot) column, decorated at its foot by reliefs of Nelson’s victories and guarded by four lions, designed by Landseer. Admiral Nelson himself is 5m (17 feet) high.

Nelson’s Column is the best known of the statues in Trafalgar Square. One plinth still awaits a permanent tenant, and is currently used for a series of exhibits by British artists.

Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column stands, is well known for a variety of uses: the Christmas tree donated each year by the Norwegians in thanks for their liberation at the end of World War II; political rallies of all descriptions; pigeons (once fed, now evicted); and, of course, New Year’s Eve celebrations.

On a more cultural note, on the north side of the square stands the National Gallery, home to some of the world’s most famous art.

Nelson’s Pillar

The most distinguishing feature of Trafalgar Square in London is Nelson’s Column, put up in the 1840s to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, the victor (although fatal casualty) of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. At that historic encounter, the Royal Navy defeated a combined Franco-Spanish fleet, thereby reasserting British control of the seas and foreclosing the possibility of a Napoleonic invasion.

Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London, June 2018.

Unfortunately for the Irish, it also foreclosed the possibility that the French would liberate them from the British, as Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet had hoped. The local authorities thus erected a pillar to Nelson on Sackville Street in Dublin in 1809, in celebration of this triumph of the British Empire.

Nelson’s Pillar, Sackville Street, Dublin, c. 1830. Wikipedia.

You could climb up it for a view of the city, but aesthetically it tended to dominate the street, and not in a good way, at least according to several people quoted in an interesting book I bought at the Hodges Figgis bookstore in Dublin.

As the twentieth century wore on and Ireland gained more and more independence, the prominent place of Nelson’s column in Dublin seemed anomalous, especially as it was right next to the General Post Office, the headquarters of the rebels during the Easter Rising of 1916. Some people were determined to do something about this deplorable situation, and in 1966, just prior to the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising, two IRA members managed to plant a bomb halfway up the column, which exploded and brought the top half crashing down into the street. The cover photo of Fallon’s book illustrates their handiwork. The Irish Army then demolished the rest. Spokesmen for the IRA disclaimed the action, saying that they were interested in the actual governance of Ireland, not in symbols of the previous regime, although apparently President Éamon De Valera telephoned a newspaper and suggested a headline: “British Admiral Leaves Dublin by Air.”

I was interested to discover that, since 2003, the Nelson Pillar has been replaced with something designated the Spire of Dublin, a stainless steel pin-like monument that extends 120 feet into the air. This was part of a redevelopment for O’Connell Street (as Sackville Street was renamed in the 1920s) it is generally seen as a monument to the “Celtic Tiger” boom years of the 1990s and 2000s.

Spire of Dublin, O’Connell Street, Dublin, May 2018.

Sanctioned or not, blowing up pillars then became somewhat of an IRA tradition. Here is an engraving of “Walker’s Pillar” as it appeared in the 1830s, overlooking the walls of Londonderry. George Walker was an English soldier and Anglican priest who was killed at the Battle of the Boyne, when the Protestant William III defeated the Catholic James II, and secured Protestant supremacy and continued Protestant settlement of Ireland.

Walker’s Pillar, Londonderry. Nineteenth-century engraving. Ebay.

And here’s what it looks like today: nothing more than a plinth, with the remains of a paint bomb thrown at it for good measure. The IRA blew up the column in 1973.

Plinth of Walker’s Pillar, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, June 2018.

Interestingly, this custom was not shared by the members of the Front de Liberation de Québec, who left the Nelson Column in Montreal in its original state.

Anti-apartheid protestors make first ascent of Nelson's Column - archive

Ed Drummond – described by colleagues as one of the greatest British rock-climbers of the decade – and a friend, Colin Rowe, were arrested, on their descent and charged with causing £500 worth of criminal damage to the column’s lightning conductor.

It is thought to be the first time in mountaineering history that a serious climb has been undertaken purely as a political gesture. It was also the first ascent of Nelson’s Column – built between 1840 and 1867­ – without the aid of ladders or scaffolding. The four-hour climb began before dawn and caused traffic chaos during the morning rush hour as drivers and pedestrians packed the square and craned to see the intrepid demonstration.

Edwin Drummond and Colin Rowe pictured at Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, 1978. Photograph: Evening News/REX/Shutterstock

Mr Drummond, aged 34, and Mr Rowe, aged 22, were equipped with full mountaineering gear, including pitons which they hammered into cracks between the granite blocks to secure their positions. They were roped together. During the climb they threw down a typed note explaining that they were protesting against foreign investment in South Africa and that it was timed to coincide with mass anti-apartheid demonstrations scheduled to take place in various Western capitals today.

The note said that their foreign investment protest was focused on Barclays Bank for what they described as its “long and dishonourable record of continued exploitation of the native South Africans.”

At the top of the column, Mr Drummond and Mr Rowe had a cigarette, surveyed the view and unfurled a banner. The two climbers abseiled down into the arms of the law at about 10.30 a.m. They were charged last night after the Department of the Environment had checked for damage to the column. A spokesman said it was found to be limited to the lightning conductor. The men were held in custody until their court appearance this morning.

The British Anti-Apartheid Movement is expecting up to 10,000 people to attend a demonstration in London today to mark the first anniversary of the mass bannings and the clampdown on the press in South Africa.

Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square, plaza in the City of Westminster, London, named for Lord Nelson’s naval victory (1805) in the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly the most famous of all London squares, Trafalgar Square has always been public and has had no garden. Seven major arteries pump automobiles around the great paved space, which is dominated by Nelson’s Column (1839–43), a 185-foot- (56-metre-) high monument to Lord Nelson that includes a 17-foot- (5-metre-) high statue of him by E.H. Baily. At the corners of the column’s plinth are four bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer and cast by Baron Marochetti.

Trafalgar Square was constructed between the 1820s and ’40s on the site of the former King’s Mews. It is flanked by the National Gallery and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Charing Cross intersection is adjacent to the south, and from it the avenue of the Strand runs off to the City to the east, where its name changes to Fleet Street.

Traditions associated with Trafalgar Square include political rallies, caroling (in December) around a large Christmas tree sent from Norway (donated since World War II), and boisterous New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Nelson’s Column – the story of an icon

Guarded by lions and towering above Trafalgar Square, this lofty monument is one of London’s most iconic

On 12 November 1918, London saw wild celebrations as an armistice declared the end of the First World War.

Nowhere was the occasion more rumbustiously marked than Trafalgar Square, memorial to
another British victory. As night fell, euphoric crowds lit a bon fire around the square’s centrepiece, Nelson’s Column, using army recruitment posters, wooden paving blocks, and
even a night-watchman’s hut for fuel. A fire engine arrived it was commandeered and the firemen themselves doused.

One hundred years on, the resulting cracks to the Devon granite pillar are long since repaired but deep scars in the stone base remain, telling their tale of public outburst in the very hour of peace.

The Battle of Trafalgar claimed the life of Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805, even as Britain gained one of its most famous victories. Already a national hero, Nelson’s reputation was now nigh-on godlike. Up and down the land, memorials sprang up. The first, an obelisk, was unveiled in Glasgow in 1806, followed by pillars, statues, plaques and columns from Edinburgh to Great Yarmouth, Derbyshire to North Wales, Bridgetown, Barbados to Montreal, Canada. Salisbury Plain saw ‘Nile Clumps’ of trees planted, commemorating victory in Egypt.

It seemed the one place that hadn’t honoured the admiral was England’s capital.

Find out the full story of how Nelson’s column was built30. Read the full article, see Vol 87 Issue 1 of BRITAIN magazine on sale here

Nelson’s Column - History

Click on a red cross to explore the Black and Asian presence in Westminster.

Nelson's Column

This is a unique place to find evidence of the Black and Asian presence in British history. African, Caribbean and Asian sailors have made an important contribution to Britain’s rich maritime history. Many Black and Asian men have served in the armed forces, fighting and dying in many of Britain’s most celebrated military victories.

The Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 was Britain’s most famous naval victory but it resulted in the death of many including Vice Admiral Nelson. The Nelson monument was erected to commemorate this event but did you know that the crew of Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, at the battle was multinational, with crew members from Britain, India, America, the West Indies, Malta, Italy and Africa?

On the left of the sculpture at the foot of the column, you can see a sailor of African appearance and holding a rifle next to the dying Nelson. Who is the sailor? What can we learn about the history of Britain’s Black and Asian presence by looking at this monument?

It is possible to trace the names of men who served in the Royal Navy. Records held at The National Archives cover a wide range of maritime activity, from service and operation records to plans to appoint an Admiral’s housekeeper.

Here is an extract from the muster roll (essentially a crew list) for HMS Victory for the period including the Battle of Trafalgar. It shows a sailor who was born in Africa called George Ryan and proves that Africans fought for Britain at the Battle of Trafalgar. Is this the sailor we see on Nelson’s Column or in the paintings of the battle in the Walker Art Gallery (see Liverpool) and the Houses of Parliament?

St Martins-in-the-Fields

It is hard to imagine now but before Trafalgar Square was built, fields, mews and stables covered the area. Later, coffee shops existed here, where Asians and Africans were bought and sold.

Parish records give details of births, deaths and marriages in a certain parish over hundreds of years. They are a good way of proving that there was a significant Black and Asian presence in London stretching back some 500 years.

Have a look at this document: it is a burial record for 1571 from the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields in the heart of London recording the interment of a woman called Margaret, a Moor. This is one of the earliest known references to a Black woman who lived in Britain.

The burial place of Ignatius Sancho

Ignatius Sancho was one of London’s most celebrated African residents. He wrote plays, poetry, music and a book. His Letters of the late Ignatius Sancho was published in 1782, two years after the author’s death. It became an immediate best seller and was reprinted five times to deal with the demand.

Sancho was born on a slave ship and came to England as a servant, where he lived for 49 years. The Duke of Montagu spotted him, helping Sancho in his efforts to educate himself. After the duke died, Sancho became a butler to the Duchess of Montagu. On her death he was left an annuity of £30.

He married a West Indian woman and together they ran a grocer’s shop at number 19, Charles Street, Westminster. Sancho mixed with some of the most famous people of the time and his writing was used in the campaign against the slave trade. He was buried at St Margaret’s church in Broadway, Westminster. There is a small green there today, with some information about Sancho on a board.

Westminster Abbey

Inside the Abbey lie some of Britain’s most famous and celebrated figures. There are memorials here to Thomas Clarkson, who founded the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787 Granville Sharp, who defended Black slaves and servants in court and helped define Britain’s position on slavery in the famous ‘Somerset’ case of 1772 and William Wilberforce MP, who argued in Parliament from 1791 to 1807 for the abolition of Britain’s slave trade and from 1807 to 1833 for the abolition of slavery itself.

The memorials to William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson can be found in the nave of Westminster Abbey, whilst Granville Sharp’s memorial can be found in Poets' Corner.

Map of Westminster Abbey

Click on a red cross to see each memorial.

The memorial to Granville Sharp, the abolitionist campaigner against the slave trade who took up the cases of many Black servants and slaves in British courts.

The memorial to Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner and founder of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

It says "A friend to slaves Thomas Clarkson b. Wisbech 1760 ● 1846 d. Playford"

The memorial to William Wilberforce, the MP who campaigned tirelessly in Parliament for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery.

The Houses of Parliament

Inside the Royal Gallery of the Houses of Parliament, there are two large frescoes painted by Daniel Maclise between 1859 and 1864. One of the frescoes is of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. On the other wall of the gallery is a fresco of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

In the Trafalgar fresco, there are two Black figures. On the left is a Black man who is tending to the wounded on HMS Victory while close to Nelson is another pointing out a target to a sharpshooter, possibly the same sniper who had just shot Vice Admiral Nelson. Is this the same Black man who appears on Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square? (see Nelson’s Column)

There is a replica of this painting on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (see Liverpool).

Find out more

Admiral Collingwood: Nelson's Own Hero by Max Adams (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005)

The Enemy at Trafalgar: Eyewitness Narratives, Dispatches and Letters from the French and Spanish Fleets by Edward Fraser (Chatham Publishing, 2004)

Admiral Lord Nelson: Context and Legacy by David Cannadine (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson by Roger Knight (Allen Lane, 2005)

Men of Honour: Trafalgar and the Making of the English Hero by Adam Nicolson (HarperCollins, 2005)

Nelson and the Nile: The Naval War Against Bonaparte 1798 by Brian Lavery (Caxton Editions, 2003)

Nelson: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert (Penguin Books, 1995)

Nelson's Column: For the sake of history don't let old underwear become Hermann's hermits

There was shock and outrage when Hermann Goering’s silk underpants were among Nazi knick-kacks auctioned in Germany, and not just because they were XXL.

Many feel such memorabilia should be incinerated, preferably with the remains of the late Reichmarshall still inside.

This is not a view to which I subscribe.

While I appreciate Hermann’s undies are not up there with the Pyramids, the Parthenon or even Parliament they are still part of history.

And however despicable the events they represent we should preserve them to help us learn lessons for the future.

You never know, a century from now some enterprising psychologist might use Goering’s bloomers as evidence of a connection between an XXL bottom and being a genocidal maniac.

The Met Police hang on to trivial items in Scotland Yard’s Black Museum, too, like Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs&apos Old Spice aftershave.

There are also gruesome exhibits like the gallstones of one of Acid Bath Murderer John Haigh’s victims which failed to dissolve, and the cooking pots House of Horrors killer Dennis Nilson used to boil human body parts. Ghastly though they are they should be kept.

Too much of the past has been destroyed by people who didn’t like what it represented. Islamic State is busy erasing the history of Syria and Iraq, blowing up magnificent sites future generations will now never see.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes, two of the world’s seven ancient wonders, went long ago because someone objected to them.

We’d have a better idea of the Christian heritage which made Western civilisation if 85 per cent of gospels, epistles and other early documents known to have existed hadn’t been lost, trashed, or surpressed.

Understanding our past helps us to understand ourselves.

The evening before polling day Brexiteers typecast themselves as clinging to the past by endlessly blaring out “There’ll always be an England” outside my Commons office window.

There will. And my worry is that now it might be the one Vera Lynn sang about 37 years ago.

I’m fond of history and I like looking at the past we’ve preserved. I’m less keen on living in it.


Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU attacked Victoria Beckham for being pro-Europe but couldn’t get her name right. It’s not Becham, Mr Garage.


Here’s one for the superstitious among you. There were apocalyptic omens in the House of Commons on Thursday as Britain headed for Brexit.

The portents revealed themselves just as everyone was voting.

A huge glass pane in Parliament’s Portcullis House roof shattered, and Jeremy Corbyn’s office was evacuated after flooding.

Another augury was former Scots first minister Alex Salmond enjoying a long lunch with some Far Eastern gentlemen, alternately toasting China and Scotland as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

All that was missing to finally convince me of Brexit were a bunch of druids predicting the future from a pile of goat’s entrails.

Get out the cat Nippon

Official Foreign Office cat Palmerston is learning Japanese. This, his @DiploMog Twitter account told 17,800 followers, is so he could thank the Japanese Ambassador for an origami ball. Palmerston should give up chasing mice and take up politics.

He already has more followers than Overseas Territories minister James Duddridge and is on course to overtake Foreign Secretary Phil Hammond. Oh well, at least the country isn’t going to the dogs.

That&aposs an old excuse, milord

Former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson, father of the now far more famous Nigella, forgot himself in the House of Lords and made an intervention when it wasn’t his turn in an excitable debate on e-cigarettes. Ever the gentleman, Lord Lawson apologised to the House “for my youthful impetuosity a moment ago.” Lord Lawson is eighty-four and a quarter.

Nelson's Column

Why is it that good comedies are cut short but humourless ones are allowed to run and run and run and run and run and. It didn't happen so much back when this was on television but the fact that it was dropped shows you that it did still happen. Now it happens more and more often, in fact it happens so often now that you can easily say that not only does humourless, boring, tedious, completely and utterly unfunny rubbish that gives the same number of laughs as a dead person (you have to be brain dead to watch them and you have to be brain dead and stupid to then say you enjoy them and then you have to be brain dead and completely moronic to say that you find them funny) such as The Office, The Royale Family, Little Britain, Bo Selecta, Ali G, Borat, (just to name a few of the many), they are then always self promoted by the industry due to the industry always giving them awards for best comedy. It's as if the industry is saying let's ignore the good stuff let's throw it away and instead of that let's have complete crap on screen instead and hey if we give it awards we'll be able to keep the rubbish on-going for a fews years until some other rubbish can take it's place. It's the same in the music industry with all the tone-deaf, tuneless, off-key, and off-note, so-called singers that fill the charts from the number one position all the way down. The charts are clogged up with them. And then a bit of self promotion by the music industry by giving them the awards for Best Single or Best Album or Best Newcomer, (that should be Best Newcomer Of A Seriously Awful And Totally Talentless Lot) and like in television drivel ends up filling our screens and ears and it looks like doing so for years to come.

This was a very funny programme. The acting was sharp, the jokes were very funny, the script was very well written. What a shame it was not allowed to run for more than two series.

Watch the video: Πως τοποθετώ στήλη ντουζ ; (July 2022).


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