London 2013: Trafalgar Square

Our final destination on our walk from Brompton Road in Knightsbridge to Buckingham Palace and The Mall was Trafalgar Square, a popular tourist attraction (rated # 124 out of 1016 attractions in London by Tripadvisor) in the heart of London.

At the intersection of The Mall and Spring Gardens we caught our first glimpse of Nelson's Column and the steeple of St Martins-in-the-Fields.

At the intersection of The Mall and Spring Gardens we caught our first glimpse of Nelson’s Column and the steeple of St Martins-in-the-Fields.

Plans for the square were developed in the early 19th century and the initial name was going to be King William the Fourth’s Square but it was later decided to name the square after the famous battle off Spain’s Cape Trafalgar in 1805 where Lord Horatio Nelson’s British fleet defeated that of Napoleon.

Nelson's Column is 170 feet (52 meters) high and the statue of the admiral is three times life size.

Nelson’s Column is 170 feet (52 meters) high and the statue of the admiral is three times life size.

Nelson’s Column was added to the middle of the square in 1843 to honor the admiral who was killed during the battle.  The four lions were added in 1867. The square soon became a popular spot for both demonstrating and celebrating.  Fountains were added to the square in the 20th century to lessen the space for rioters. They have become very popular, especially in hot weather.

One of four lions at the base of Nelson's Column.

One of four lions at the base of Nelson’s Column.

Another lion and St Martins-in-the-Fields. That's King George IV on his horse occupying the north-east plinth.

Another lion and St Martins-in-the-Fields. That’s King George IV on his horse occupying the north-east plinth.

Relaxing on the base of the column.

Relaxing on the base of the column.

Relief at the base of Nelson's Column depicting the death of the war hero during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when the British navy defeated Napoleon's fleet.

Relief at the base of Nelson’s Column depicting the death of the war hero during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when the British navy defeated Napoleon’s fleet.

Plinths were designed in each of the square’s four corners to display statues of famous people. King George IV on horseback stands on the north-east plinth. Two generals who spent most of their careers in India — Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock — occupy the two southern plinths. The fourth (northwest) plinth was vacant for more than a 150 years.  In 1999 it was decided to reserve the plinth for displaying contemporary art. Currently on display is a bright blue cockerel created by German artist Katharina Fritsch.

Henry and Geraldine, our Irish cousins, pose in front of the west fountain and the fourth plinth.

Henry and Geraldine, our Irish cousins, pose in front of the west fountain and the Fourth Plinth.

The west (Jellicoe) fountain, dolphin-mermaid-triton sculpture, steps and terrace in front of the National Gallery. The pedestrian terrace came into being in 2003.  Before that there was a one-way motorway that surrounded the square.

The west (Jellicoe) fountain, dolphin-mermaid-triton sculpture, steps and terrace in front of the National Gallery. The pedestrian terrace came into being in 2003. Before that there was a one-way motorway that surrounded the square.

Picture-taking at the Fourth Plinth. The contemprorary art on the plinth usually rotates every 18 months.  Next year a horse skeleton will replace the Blue Cockerel.

Picture-taking at the Fourth Plinth. The contemporary art on the plinth usually rotates every 18 months. Next year a horse skeleton will replace the Blue Cockerel.

Big Ben appears in the background in this view of Nelson's Column.

Big Ben appears in the background in this view of Nelson’s Column.

The National Gallery is directly north of the square and St Martins-in-the-Fields church, famous for its free lunchtime concerts, stands east of the National Gallery. South of the church and directly east of the square is South Africa House. Canada House is west of the square. The Grand buildings, formerly the Grand Hotel, stand south of the square between the Strand and Northumberland Avenue.

Side view of the National Gallery from the steps of St Martins-in-the-fields. I visited inside the church for a few minutes but was not allowed to take any photographs because the choir was rehearsing for Evensong.

Side view of the National Gallery from the steps of St Martins-in-the-fields. I visited inside the church for a few minutes but was not allowed to take any photographs because the choir was rehearsing for Evensong.

View of the square with the column and the two north plinths -- from the steps of St Martins-in-the-fields. Canada House is the building behind the Blue Cockerel.

View of the square with the column and the two north plinths — from the steps of St Martins-in-the-Fields. Canada House is the building behind the Blue Cockerel.

Some people come to Trafalgar Square to meet and then depart for other landmarks nearby. Others come just to people-watch. And it’s easy to find. Some of London’s major streets — Whitehall, the Strand, The Mall, Charing Cross Road — culminate at the square. Thousands of Londoners come to the square every Christmas season to witness various Christmas ceremonies including the lighting of a large Christmas Tree. And thousands more come every New Year’s Eve to celebrate.

The view to the left of the column: the rear end of King George's horse, a Scots bagpipes busker, Victoria Tower (center background), and several people surviving with their mobile phones.

The view to the left of the column: the rear end of King George’s horse, a Scots bagpipes busker, Victoria Tower (center background), and several people surviving with their mobile phones.

The square used to be the home for more than 35,000 pigeons but several laws have been passed during the last 15 years banning pigeon feeding and there are very few pigeons left. During our stay we saw a few visiting the Blue Cockerel on the Fourth Plinth but that was all.

A silver cowboy stands quietly at the edge of the square (near South Africa House) staring at the world passing by.

A silver cowboy stands quietly at the edge of the square (near South Africa House) staring at the world passing by.

The area around Trafalgar Square used to be called Charing Cross and there still is a Charing Cross Station where we caught the Tube to get back to our hotel in Stratford City.

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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