A Statuary for England's Hero

Admiral Horatio Nelson was lost to Napoleons Army at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument rises high over Trafalgar Square was built to commemorate him. The idea was created in 1838, and building began in 1840, being completed in 1843. William Railton was the architect who designed the statue, and it was built and erected by Peto & Grissell.

The original sculpture still stands in the National maritime Museum in the Greenwich suburb in London, standing at 7.7 feet tall. This model is a 1:22 scale of the actual column, and is made from stone but lacks a left hand. The column makes up the largest part of the statue. It is made of granite, and stands at 151 feet tall. It was modeled based upon the Corinthian columns found in the Mars Field of Rome.

A lifelike model of the admiral sits on top of the column made of sandstone. This was sculpted by E.H. Baily of the royal Academy, depicting Nelson in a characteristically 18th century pose, sword at his side. The admiral gazes southward toward his prized naval ships, placed on top on the flagpoles in the neighboring Pall Mall.

Four brass panels create a plinth at the bottom of the column, and are made from French munitions that were captures, melted, and reworked by four sculptors. The east facing side was sculpted by Musgrave Watson, and depicts the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Another panel depicts the Battle of Copenhagen was crafted by John Ternouth. The third panel shows the admiral losing an eye in the Battle of the Nile and was carved by William F. Woodington. Finally, the last panel was sculpted by John Edward Carew, and demonstrates the heroic death of the admiral at the Battle of Trafalgar, which was later won.

There are other decorative features adorning the statue, including acanthus leaves from salvaged canons around the top, and around the bottom are four life sized lions, designed by Edwin Landseer, cast in bronze. Landseer had never seen a lion, so he made the paws dog paws.

The Nelson’s column was refurbished in 2006. A professional firm, that was responsible for many other monuments in London, gently cleaned the statue using steam and mild abrasives. During this work, lasers revealed that the height of the statue had been misrepresented, with it being 15 feet shorter that the reported height of 185 feet. The advertising that covered the scaffolding was able to cover the entire cost of the restoration project!