Victorian London - Districts - Areas - Trafalgar Square

see also Nelson's Column - click here

see also Henry Holland Burne in The Early Years of Queen Victoria's Reign


    On our last examination of these capacious scolloping shells, we observed that a sort of deposit of orange peel, bits of paper and dirt, has formed at the bottom of them. Nothing is said about laying on the water, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests having commenced a well, but in compliance with the principle of leaving well alone, nothing have been done with it.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1844

Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - Statue of George IV (Trafalgar Square)

Equestrian Statue of George IV. - The bronze statue of George IV. by Chantry is, generally speaking, a fine work, at once worthy of the artist and an ornament to the metropolis, if we except the omission of the boots and spurs, and also a covering for the head, which, whether hat or helmet, might have been placed in the hand, and the absence of which give it an unfinished and incomplete appearance. The likeness is at once characteristic and elegant; the rider is well placed in the saddle, and has an air of dignified ease, the left hand holding the bridle loosely, mid the right holding a baton, which rests on the thigh. The horse stands firmly in a natural position, all four feet being placed on the ground, the head small, and animated in expression, chest ample, and limbs finely formed ; the hind quarters, however, appear somewhat spate, a circumstance arising from the artist having adopted the Arabian instead of the Flemish breed, the sort of horse that, much in use among cavalry regiments, generally figures in the battle-pieces of Rubens. Clothed in a mantle, the artist has escaped from the difficulty of representing the King in the unpicturesque costume of the present day; but the propriety of this may perhaps be questioned--the preferable mode, as being more true to nature, being to represent the monarch "in his habit as he lived;" a departure from which, it must be admitted, renders it of nondescript character, and consequently somewhat unsatisfactory.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

TRAFALGAR SQUARE, CHARING  CROSS. A spacious square, at the junction of Whitehall, Cockspur-street, the Strand, St. Martin's-lane, and Pall Mall East, where the Royal Mews and the Bermudas stood, cemmenced in 1829, and still (1849) far from complete. It derives its name from Lord Nelson's last victory, and is said to have cost, in granite work alone, upwards of 10,0001. The Nelson Column was designed by Mr. Railton. The statue on the top (18 feet high, and formed of two stones, from the Granton quarry) was the work of E. H. Baily, R.A. It has been styled "the beau ideal of a Greenwich pensioner." The capital is of bronze, furnished from cannon taken from the French. To the great disgrace of the nation and the government, this monument to the noblest of our naval heroes is still unfinished. The statue was set up Nov. 4th, 1843. The amount subscribed was 20,483l. 11s. 2d.; and 12,000l. it was thought on the most moderate estimate, was the sum required to complete the monument. The bronze bas-relief of the Death of Nelson is the work of Mr. Carew, and the bronze has-relief of the Nile, the work of Mr. Woodington. The corresponding recesses will be filled with bas-reliefs of St. Vincent, and Copenhagen, by Messrs. Watson, and Ternouth. The equestrian statue of George IV., by Sir Francis Chantrey, was originally ordered for "the top of the marble arch," in front of Buckingham Palace. The statue was commenced in 1829, under an express order from the King himself, and the sum agreed upon was 9000 guineas. Of this sum, one-third was paid, in Jan. 1830, by the King himself; a second instalment, upon the completion of a certain portion of the work, by the Woods and Forests; and the third and last instalment, in 1843, after the artist's death, by the Lords of the Treasury. Observe.-The National Gallery and apartments of the Royal Academy of Arts, occupying the whole north side of the square; College of Physicians, Union Club-house, on the west side ; fine portico of church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. The fountains, of Peterhead granite, somewhat diminutive in size, but large when we consider the material, were made by Messrs. M'Donald and Leslie, of Aberdeen. The Chartist riots of 1848 commenced in this square by a parcel of blackguard boys, destroying the hoarding round the base of the Nelson Monument.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

[ ... back to main menu for this book]

Trafalgar Square has been called the finest site in Europe, but, however this may be, it is very far from having been utilised to the extent of its possibilities. A short but broad approach to the park should be driven through Spring-gardens, so as to afford an effective view. If from this new street the houses at present standing were pulled down, as far as the corner of Parliament-street, and an appropriate building erected on their site, much would have been done to render Trafalgar-square worthy of its position as the centre of London. The National Gallery has long been condemned, but no Government has yet felt itself financially strung enough to ask the nation for the money sufficient for an entirely new building, worthy of the national art collection of the country. The National Gallery and St. George’s Barracks occupy the whole of the upper or northern side of the square; the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields stands in the northeast corner; on the eastern side are the premises occupied by the Royal Humane Society, and Morley’s Hotel; on the western side are the Royal College of Physicians, and the Union Club; on the south side of the square are the grand hotel now building on the site of Northumberland House, and the plot between Northumberland-avenue and Parliament-street still vacant; while west of Parliament-street are some shops and insurance offices as far at the entrance to Spring-gardens. Nelson’s monument, with its four lions, is the most conspicuous feature of the square, which contains, moreover, statues of Napier, Havelock, and other worthies. The fountains, which ought to add to the appearance of the place, in reality detract from it, by the ridiculous insufficiency of their jets of water.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square - photograph


Trafalgar Square has been pronounced the finest site in Europe it is certainly the finest open space in the metropolis. Our view is taken from the north terrace, on which faces the front of the National Gallery, a building in the Corinthian style, 490 feet in length From this terrace steps lead down to the area of the square, in which are two large fountains. Beneath these stands the Nelson column, 145 feet in height, erected to the victor of Trafalgar in 1843 by voluntary contributions, with four gigantic lions at its base, which were modelled for it by Sir Edwin Landseer. Among the other statues in the Square is one to the late General Gordon, by Mr. Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., presenting the hero in an attitude of meditation.

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Trafalgar Square, looking down Whitehall

Trafalgar Square - photograph


From the middle of the Terrace in front of the National Gallery, the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament is seen rising beyond broad and stately Whitehall Between the plashing fountains, which are so delightful a feature of Trafalgar Square, with face towards the Nelson Column, is Mr. Hamo Thornycroft's excellent statue of General Gordon, erected in 1888. The height of the Nelson column, 145 feet, or 162 feet if Bailys heroic statue of the hero on its summit be included, is most easily realised from this point of view. The road to the left in our view is Northumberland Avenue, so called because Northumberland House, the grand old residence of the Percy family, formerly stood on the site. To the right is Cockspur Street, leading to Pall Mall.