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London's most famous square and a memorial to Admiral Nelson, hero of the Napoleonic Wars

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Nelsons Column
4 Great Lions
Corner Statues
Fourth Plinth
National Gallery

Trafalgar Square
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Trafalgar Square is one of Britain's most important London landmarks and a focus for national demonstration and celebration. The square is named after Spanish Cape Trafalgar, where in 1805 British forces, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson, defeated a combined French and Spanish Fleet, in the most significant naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars.

J. M. W. Turner painted this Battle of Trafalgar scene in 1822
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Trafalgar Square used to be famous for its pigeons and feeding the pigeons was a popular activity for tourists. It was estimated that the pigeon population grew to a staggering 30,000 and in 2000, sales of bird seed was banned. In September 2007, a law was passed banning the feeding of birds in the square, and as a result, there are very few birds left.

A typical view across Trafalgar Square
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John Nash first designed the layout of the Square in a Neo-classical style during the 1820s, but it was not until the 1840s that its focal point, Nelson’s Column was added. Admiral Nelson was one of Britain's best-loved heroes, after winning four notable naval battles, during which he lost an arm and one eye. The Battle of Trafalgar was his most famous, but also his last. The French and Spanish fleet lost 22 of their 33 ships during the Battle, whilst the British lost none, and Nelson died on the deck of H.M.S. Victory, leading his fleet.

Admiral Horatio Nelson
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Nelson's Column, 182-feet (56-metres) including statue, which is exactly the same height as the main mast on H.M.S. Victory
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When Nelson’s Column was completed in 1843 and before the statue of the Admiral was placed at the top, a few select dignitaries of the day proceeded to have dinner on the top of the column, to celebrate its completion.
Acanthus leaves cast from British cannons decorate the top, and at the base are bronze panels depicting scenes from Nelson’s four victorious battles – the Nile, Copenhagen, Cape St Vincent and Trafalgar. Guarding the column are 4 great lions. These superb statues were designed by Edwin Landseer, and are cast from bronze cannons captured from the defeated French fleet.

Nelson's battles, depicted on bronze panels at the foot of the column
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Trafalgar Square marks the point where distances to and from London are measured. Distances to world cities include:
Beijing 5277 miles (8493 km)
Cairo 2179 miles (3508 km)
Delhi 4164 miles (6702 km)
New York 3459 miles (5567 km)
Paris 211 miles (340 km)
Rome 889 miles (1431 km)
Sydney 10553 miles (16983 km)
Tokyo 5937 miles (9554 km)

4 Great Lions, cast from captured French cannons
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At the corners of the square are stone plinths which carry bronze statues of King George IV on horseback, Sir Henry Havelock and Sir Charles James Napier, who were both Victorian major generals. The fourth pedestal was intended to carry a statue of King William IV, but insufficient funds and later disagreement, left it empty. Over the years, it has been used to display several official and unofficial visiting works of sculpture, including a model of David Beckham, placed by Madame Tussauds during the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

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From Monday 6th July 2009 for 100 days the fourth plinth displayed a living statue. 2,400 members of the public were chosen to stand on the plinth for one hour each. Each person was free to wear and do whatever they please, with the first plinther being 35-year-old Rachel Wardell, from Sleaford, Lincolnshire, who said she wanted to "represent normal, everyday stay-at-home mums".

Statue of King George IV
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Each year in December, the people of Norway send a gift of an enormous Christmas tree to Britain, which is erected in Trafalgar Square. This is in thanks for Britain's part in their liberation during WW2.
At the south end of the square you will find a statue of King Charles I on horseback. In 1675, this statue replaced the original site of the Charing Cross, erected by King Edward I in 1290. The king was so fond of his wife, Eleanor, that when she died, he marked the route of the funeral procession from Lincoln to her final resting-place at Westminster, with 12 crosses - each cross marking the spot where her coffin rested overnight. The final cross remained on this spot, until its removal during the English Civil War. 200 years later, a replica cross was placed in the forecourt at Charing Cross Station, which can still be seen today.

Statue of King Charles I
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In 1925 a Scottish trickster named Arthur Ferguson, "sold" Nelson’s Column to an unsuspecting American tourist for £6,000, claiming it was for sale to pay off Britain's war loan from the United States. He also sold Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
Visitor Information
Trafalgar Square is open 24 hours a day. The square holds temporary art exhibitions on the 4th plinth.

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