London’s foremost meeting point for social and political gatherings, Trafalgar Square takes its name from Horatio Nelson’s famous victory over Napoleon’s French and Spanish fleets at Cape Trafalgar in 1805. The battle cost Nelson his life and he’s remembered here with a 170ft column, at the base of which are four lions cast out of his enemy’s bronze cannons.
What started out as mews for the horses of Whitehall Palace, the area now occupied by the square was transformed in the early 18th century by the architect John Nash. It’s had several makeovers since, the latest being in 2003. The road between the National Gallery/National Portrait Gallery and the square was removed and replaced with a terrace making the whole thing much more pedestrian friendly.
Apart from that the layout is much the same as it was intended. There are two fountains and four plinths. Three of them have statues – George IV, Sir Charles James Napier and Sir Henry Havelock. Former mayor, Ken Livingstone, tried in vain to get Napier and Havelock replaced with statues of people “ordinary Londoners would know”. The fourth plinth was left empty for years but in recent times it’s become a place for modern artwork.
Ken Livingstone did get his way on one thing though – he managed to rid the square of its 35,000 pigeons which were deemed a health hazard. It’s a shame in one way because everyone used to love feeding them, but I suppose he did have a point.
It goes without saying really, that Trafalgar Square can get busy, but there’s plenty of room most of the time unless you come here when there’s either a political rally, a major event or New Years Eve.