We continue our exploration of Trafalgar Square.
The main features shown in the sketch can all still be seen today: the fountains, Nelson's Column, the George IV statue, the National Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields (which we have to spy) along with some other features not mentioned: the statue of Havelock (an army general who achieved fame during the 1850s Indian Mutiny) just to the east of Nelson's column, the little Police Station in the bottom corner, the Coliseum and the statue of Edith Cavell at the start of St Martin's Lane.
What the sketch doesn't show is the traffic, the tourists or the pigeons and the pigeon-food stall; it did not become illegal to feed pigeons in the square until 2003. And also, of course, no central steps in the north wall leading up to the National Gallery as at that time the square was still basically a roundabout. I remember the time when you could drive round it or catch the night bus from in front of the gallery...

Nelson's Column 3
I-Spy tells us that Nelson is 16 feet high and the column 170 1/2 feet. Pevsner states "Its total height is 170 feet (52 metres), plus the 17-ft (5.2 metre) high statue of Nelson". Philip Ward-Jackson, in his Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster (comprehensive and highly recommended if you're interested in that sort of thing), doesn't bother with feet at all and simply gives the "overall height of the monument" as 51.8 m and the statue as 4.85 m.
So that's all about as accurate as the Imperial Standards (see previous article) on a hot day...
What I can tell you is that it was first proposed that it should be over 200 feet tall but the height was reduced due to concerns about stability. In any case, it was around 30 feet higher than the Duke of York Column that had been erected just up the Mall a few years previously.
The design for the column was agreed in 1839 and the statue was raised (in sections) to the top of the column in 1843. It's sculpted from two blocks of Scottish Craigleith stone (incidentally, the same stone used by Robert Adam for the facade of Chandos House). Embelishments came later; the reliefs round the base in the 1850s and the lions in 1867.
The first two words of the saying are, as you might have guessed, 'England expects (every man will do his duty)'; the famous signal sent by Nelson from HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence. Appropriately they are engraved beneath the relief depicting the death of Nelson in this battle.
And what of the crack caused by the Armistice Day fire? Could it be the black line beneath the north-east lion or has it been repaired since the I-Spy book was produced?

George IV's statue 4
This bronze equestrian statue, that I've never been particularly fond of, stands in the north-east corner of the square.

What's missing? Not the horse's balls, that's for sure, and, as usual, he has a seagull perched on his head. But, on closer inspection, you notice that he's riding bare-back so there is no saddle or stirrups.
The statue, commissioned by the King himself, was part of an extravagent vanity project; John Nash's renovation and expansion of Buckingham House, into a palace fit for a king. Marble Arch was installed as the grand ceremonial entrance in 1827 but its decorative detail was incomplete when the King died three years later. Parliament immediately put a stop to the extravagent folly so although the sculptor (Francis Chantrey) was paid to complete his work there was no longer anywhere to site the statue. Chantrey declined the offer of installing it at the end of the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park (replacing the statue of George III) so it languished in his studio until he died in 1843. Fortunately Trafalgar Square had been laid out by this time and there was a convenient empty plinth...
So it's not only the statue but the arch itself that is no longer standing in the place originally intended.

The National Gallery 5
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square 1950s To reach the National Gallery from the square in 1968 we would have had to go up the stairs at one side and cross the road, as this scan from The Country Life Picture Book of London (1959) shows.
Just as it was in 1968, the gallery is free to visit. In fact, it has always been free, unlike many of the other major museums and galleries which introduced charges under Thatcher (scrapped by Labour in 2001).
Before Trafalgar Square was laid-out in the 1830s, the area had been the site of the Royal Mews. The north side, where the National Gallery stands today, was occupied by the Crown Stables, a large block designed by William Kent in the 1730s. The initial plans for the square were drawn up by John Nash as part of his ambitious town planning scheme centred round Regent's Street - the grand ceremonial route from the Prince Regent's residence, Carlton House (soon to be demolished) and his summer palace in Regent's Park (never built). Nash had paved the way for the clearance of the land by building a new Royal Mews in Pimlico in the 1820s. This rendered Kent's building largely redundant and it spent the rest of its life as a menagerie and store for public records until its eventual demolition in 1835.
Nash fell out of favour after George IV died in 1830 and although much of the land had been cleared, the square was still at the planning stage when Nash himself died five years later. So although the National Gallery had featured in Nash's original plan for the square it was ultimately designed by William Wilkins (who also designed UCL, in case you've ever wondered about the similarities). Quite a bit of recycling went into its construction; Wilkins was obliged to use the pillars from the old Carlton House which had been in storage since its demolition and much of the statuary on the facade had originally been intended for the decoration of Marble Arch. So George IV ended up with a backdrop made up from the remnants of his demolished house and fragments of decor that should have adorned the ceremonial entrance to his uncompleted new one...
I'm not sure whether that applies to the sculpture above the entrance, nor am I sure of the significance of the camel.

Wilkins had also produced a design for the square itself but died before it could be completed so that was left to Charles Barry. Interestingly, Wilkins' design had a set of central stairs in the north wall so the square has now reverted to its original design.

St Martin-in-the-Fields 6

Our final Trafalgar Square sight is St Martin-in-the-Fields church, designed by James Gibbs and completed in 1726 - as the date over the portico shows.

By the time Gibbs built his church, the area was built up but first reference to a church on the site dates back to Norman times when, of course, it would have been surrounded by fields... The church was rebuilt by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century. It was in this church that Nell Gwynne was buried. There's no sign of her now. If there ever was a memorial it would have been removed when the church was demolished; at that time adverts were placed in newspapers to inform relatives that they could remove bodies or memorials in the church or churchyard for reinterment.
Thomas Chippendale, the furniture maker, whose workshop was in St Martin's Lane, was buried in the new church but I couldn't find any sign of him either. Many old memorial stones form the floor of the cafe in the crypt where their inscriptions are gradually being worn away by visitors.
Whipping post The whipping post is still there; together with a rather gory account of its usage. the number of lashes was determined by a magistrate and both men and women could be sentenced to be whipped "until the body became bloody by reason of such beating". It was commonly used to punish vagrancy and also for misdemeanours such as immorality, drunkeness, disorder, blasphemy and slander. More serious crimes - such as forgery, bigamy and theft could also be punished by whipping - unless the value of the goods was greater than the equivalent of 5p in today's money, in which case the punishment would be hanging. The punishment was abolished for women in 1791 but not until 1837 for men.
I also discovered this rather interesting plaque recording that the surgeon John Hunter had originally been buried here but "after a long and diligent search...the remains were identified and transferred to Westminster Abbey". Which begs the question as to what methods could be used in the middle of the nineteenth century to identify remains accurately? Is it really John Hunter buried in the Abbey?

The question relating to St Martin's on the following page is:
On the front of the church there's the date when it was built - and the architect's name. What was his surname? (Score: 20). And as we know that's Gibbs we can award ourselves the 20 points.

Points for this article: 85
Total points so far: 125

In the next installment we'll head west to Admiralty Arch.

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