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Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London and has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages.

At that time the site was called Charing. Later it became known as Charing Cross, after a memorial cross on the square. The nearby underground station - aka 'tube' - is still named Charing Cross.

History

From the 13th century on the area was the site of the King's Royal Hawks and later the  Royal Mews. In 1812 the Prince Regent - who would later become King George IV - asked architect John Nash to redevelop the area. Nash had the terrain cleared but he died before his plans were realized. The new design for a large square was finally implemented between 1840 and 1845 under supervision of architect Sir Charles Barry, better known for his Houses of Parliament.

Nelson's Column

At the center of the square is the tall Nelson's Column which was built to commemorate the victory of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805. Nelson was fatally wounded during that famous battle off the Spanish coast. His body was taken back to London and buried in the St. Paul's Cathedral.


The Corinthian column was built in 1842 and is approximately 170ft or 52m high (including the base). It was built after a design by William Railton chosen from a selection of 124 competition entries. On top of the column is an 18ft high statue of Lord Nelson, created by Edmund Hodges.

At the base of the column are four huge lions modeled by Sir Edwin Landseer. They were added later in 1868. Trafalgar square also contains a large number of statues and two fountains by Sir Edwin Lutyens, added in 1939. The square is surrounded by many great buildings. On the north side is the neo-classical National Gallery, built between 1834 and 1838. It houses a collection of more than 2300 paintings, including works by van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci and Claude Monet. On the east side the square is bordered by the Canada House, completed in 1827. Opposite the Canada House is the South Africa House, which opened in 1933.