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Trafalgar Square
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Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square is a square in central London that commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. The original name was to have been "King William the Fourth's Square", but George Ledwell Taylor suggested the name "Trafalgar Square".

The area had been the site of the King's Mews since the time of Edward I. In the 1820s the Prince Regent engaged the landscape architect John Nash to redevelop the area. Nash cleared the square as part of his Charing Cross Improvement Scheme. The present architecture of the square is due to Sir Charles Barry and was completed in 1845.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Pigeons
3 The Fourth Plinth
4 Redevelopment
5 Christmas Ceremony
6 Access
7 External links

Overview

The square consists of a large central area surrounded by roadways on three sides, and stairs leading to the National Gallery on the other. Prior to 2003, the square was surrounded by a one-way traffic system on all sides. Underpasses attached to Charing Cross underground station still allow pedestrians to avoid traffic.

In the center of the square is Nelson's Column, surrounded by fountains and four huge bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer; the metal used is said to have been recycled from the cannons of the French fleet. The column is topped by a statue of Lord Nelson, the admiral who commanded the British Fleet at Trafalgar.

On the north side of the square are the National Gallery and St Martin's-in-the-Fields. The square adjoins The Mall via Admiralty Arch to the southwest. To the south is Whitehall, to the east the Strand, to the north Charing Cross Road and on the west side is Canada House.

At the corners of the square are four plinths, the two northern were intended to be used for equestrian statues, they are wider than the two southern. Three of them hold statues: George IV (northeast, 1840s), Henry Havelock (southeast, 1861, by William Behnes), and Sir Charles James Napier (southwest, 1855). Mayor of London Ken Livingstone controversially expressed a desire to see these replaced with statues of people more relevant to the 21st century.

Pigeons

The square is a popular tourist spot in London, and is particularly famous for its pigeons (rock doves). The National Portrait Gallery displays a 1948 photograph of Elizabeth Taylor posing there with bird seed so as to be mobbed by birds. The desirability of the birds' presence has long been contentious: their droppings look ugly on buildings and damage the stonework, and the flock, estimated at 35,000, is considered to be a health hazard.

Since 2000, bird seed to feed them is no longer sold in the square, and efforts are being made to discourage them. In 2003 Livingstone enacted by-laws to ban the feeding of pigeons within the square.

The Fourth Plinth

The fourth plinth on the northwest corner was intended to hold a statue of William IV, but remained empty due to insufficient funds. Later, agreement could not be reached over which monarch or military hero to place there.

In 1999, the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) conceived the idea of the Fourth Plinth Project, which sought to temporarily occupy the plinth with a succession of works commissioned from three contemporary artists. These were:

Whiteread, already notable for her controversial Turner Prize-winning work "House", made a cast of the plinth in transparent resin, and placed the copy upside-down on top of the original. Following the exhibition project, some wish to see it continue in this role.

Various companies have used the plinth (often without permission) as a platform for publicity stunts, including a model of David Beckham by Madame Tussauds.

The Greater London Authority's Trafalgar Square fourth plinth committee is also considering a permanent statue -- the fourth plinth remains the subject of debate. On March 24, 2003 an appeal was launched by Wendy Woods, the widow of the anti-apartheid journalist Donald Woods, hoping to raise 400,000 to pay for a 9 ft high statue of Nelson Mandela by Ian Walters. The relevance of the location is that South Africa House, the South African embassy, scene of many anti-apartheid demonstrations, is also located on Trafalgar Square.

Redevelopment

In 2003 the redevelopment of the north side of the square was completed. The work involved demolishing part of the wall, and building a wide set of stairs (and two lifts for disabled access). Plans for a large staircase had long been discussed, even in original plans for the square. The new stairs lead to a large terrace or piazza in front of the National Gallery, in what was previously a road. Previously access between the Square and the Gallery was via two busy crossings at the north east and north west corners of the square. The pedestrianization plan has been carried out in the face of protests from both road-users and pedestrians concerned that the diversion of traffic will lead to greater congestion elsewhere in London. However, this does not seem to have happened; the reduction in traffic due to the London Congestion Charge may be a factor.

Christmas Ceremony

There is a Christmas ceremony every year since 1947. A Norwegian Spruce is given by Oslo as a token of gratitude for Britain's support during World War II.

Access

Nearest London Underground station:

External links