Nelson’s Column: Facts About the Famous London Landmark

Here are some facts about Nelson’s Column.

  • Nelson’s Column is a monument in London‘s Trafalgar Square.

  • It was built between 1840 and 1843 to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who fought and died at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).
  • The monument was designed by William Railton and is 51.59 metres tall.
  • It is constructed from Dartmoor granite, and the statue of Nelson at the top, made form sandstone, was made by E. H. Baily.
  • Four bronze lions were added to the base of the column in 1867. These were made by Edwin Landseer.
  • Four bronze panels decorate the pedestal of the column. These were cast from the metal of captured French guns. They show images of the death of Nelson, the Battle of Copenhagen, the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent.
  • The statue of Nelson at the top of the column is 5.5 metres high.
  • The monument was refurbished in 2006. It was scaffolded and cleaned at a cost of more than £400,000.
  • The column has been climbed on several occasions. Some of the climbs, such as those undertaken by John Noakes and Gary Wilmot, were for charity. Other climbs were made to protest or to draw attention to an issue. For example, in 1979 Ed Drummond climbed Nelson’s Column to raise awareness about the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Nelson's Column

  • In December 2015, Disney covered the column in lights so that it looked like a giant lightsaber, promoting the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie.
  • Apparently, Adolf Hitler had plans to relocate the monument to Berlin, if the planned invasion of Britain had been a success during World War 2.
  • Other monuments to Horatio Nelson can be found in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Birmingham, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Great Yarmouth.

Facts About the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe)

Here are some facts about the Gherkin.

  • The Gherkin is the popular name for 30 St. Mary Axe, a London skyscraper.

  • It is located on the street of that name, in the City of London, London’s financial district.
  • It is 180 metres tall and has 41 floors. It stands on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was badly damaged by a bomb in 1992.
  • The Gherkin has won several architectural awards, and was voted the most admired new building in 2005. It has also been featured in several films, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
  • A bar on the building’s top floor offers spectacular views over London. The Gherkin can also be seen from a long distance away, including from the M11 motorway – a distance of 30 km.
  • The Gherkin was designed by Norman Foster, the architect who also designed London’s new Wembley Stadium. Construction on the Gherkin began in 2001 and it was opened in 2003.
  • The exterior windows cover an area of about 24,000 square metres, the area of five football pitches. Despite its curved shape, the building uses only one piece of curved glass.
  • The Gherkin has 18 passenger lifts, reaching speeds of six metres per second. At any one time, the lifts can transport almost 400 people up and down in the building.
  • The circumference of the Gherkin at its widest point is almost the same as its height. The building has a total floor space of about 48,000 square metres.
  • Because of its double glazed windows, the Gherkin uses half the power a similar sized standard building would use.
  • Six large shafts act as a giant ventilation system, cooling the entire building.
  • The body of a Roman woman was found during the Gherkin’s construction. The body was kept in the Museum of London and then re-buried at the foot of the building, once it was finished.

What next? Discover some facts about some other London landmarks: Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey.

Royal Albert Hall: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Royal Albert Hall.

  • The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall located in central London. It is on Kensington Gore, overlooking Hyde Park, within walking distance of several museums and colleges.
  • It was designed by two architects in the Royal Engineers, and opened by Queen Victoria in 1871.

  • It was originally called the Hall of Arts and Science, and the name was changed after Prince Albert‘s death.
  • The design was partly based on the Colosseum in Rome.
  • It was originally lit by gas and the original dome was made in Manchester, before being taken apart and transported to London.
  • The Royal Albert Hall is not circular as often thought, but oval in shape. Its distinctive design may have saved it from being bombed during World War II, as German pilots used it as a landmark.
  • The building can seat about 5,400 people, although when first built could seat up to 8,000.
  • It measures 83 metres across and reaches a height of 41 metres.
  • Over 350 events take place at the Royal Albert Hall each year. In addition to the Proms, the hall hosts rock concerts, ballets, graduation ceremonies, film premieres and tennis matches.
  • Cirque du Soleil has performed several times at the Royal Albert Hall. Other famous names who have played here include the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Liza Minelli.
  • The famous Proms have been held at the hall since 1941. The 8 week programme of concerts finishes with the well known and patriotic themed last night of the Proms.
  • The frieze at the top around the outside of the Royal Albert Hall was designed by a ladies’ mosaic class. It shows different jobs, including painting, construction and engineering.
  • The building’s organ is one of the largest in England, with 9,999 pipes.
  • The acoustics in the hall were not perfected until 1969, when fibreglass discs were hung from the ceiling.

St Paul’s Cathedral: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about St Paul’s Cathedral:

  • St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the largest churches in the world. It is located within the City of London on Ludgate Hill, the City’s highest point.

  • The cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, as an important part of a huge rebuilding plan, after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Wren also designed over 50 other London churches.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London from its construction until 1962. The dome is the second largest in the world at 366 feet high and is reached by climbing 259 steps.
  • The present cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, although other church buildings have stood on the same spot. Old St Paul’s Cathedral was
  • started by the Normans and completed by about 1240.

St Paul's Cathedral

  • One of the most well known features of the cathedral is the Whispering Gallery. A whisper against the wall can be clearly heard at the other side, 112 feet away.
  • The cathedral’s crypt is the largest in Western Europe and extends the entire length of the building. There are over 200 monuments and memorials in the crypt.
  • The cathedral was hit by several German bombs during the Blitz in World War 2. One was removed before it exploded; had it done so, it would have totally destroyed St. Paul’s.
  • Sir Christopher Wren was the first person to be buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral’s largest monument is that to the Duke of Wellington, depicting the Duke riding a horse.
  • Funeral services for several famous people have been held at St Paul’s, including Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson. The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was also held there.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral has been painted by such famous artists as Pissaro, Canaletto and Turner. It has also been shown in several films, including Mary Poppins, Sherlock Holmes and one of the Harry Potter films.

Who is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral?

Many famous people have been buried in St Paul’s, including:

  • James Barry (Artist)
  • John Donne (Poet)
  • Ethelred the Unready (King of England from 978-1013 and 1014-1016)
  • Alexander Fleming (Scientist)
  • Henry Moore (Sculptor)
  • Horatio Nelson (British Navy Admiral)
  • Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington)
  • Christopher Wren (Architect – designed St Paul’s Cathedral)

What next? Discover more facts about London.

Victorian London: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Victorian London.

  • Queen Victoria reigned in Britain from 1837 until 1901, and the time that she reigned is generally known as the Victorian period. For much of that time, Britain had a huge empire stretching around the world.

  • Victorian London was the largest city in the world for much of that time. Its population grew from about 1 million people in 1800, to about 6.7 million in 1900 although many of the city’s residents lived in poverty.
  • Many of London’s most famous buildings and landmarks were built during the 19th century, including Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and Victoria Station.
  • The first lines on the London Underground were constructed in 1863. Today, there are 270 stations, with over 250 miles of track and the system carries over 3 million passengers every day.
  • One of the most famous people in Victorian London was the murderer, Jack the Ripper, who was never identified or caught. Today, a guided walk around Jack the Ripper’s London is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
  • Victorian London was well known for its fog, which was often extremely thick. Because it had a slight green colour to it, the fog was often known as a pea-souper. Apparently, people regularly walked into the River Thames because they couldn’t see where they were going.
  • The Great Exhibition took place in 1851 to showcase science and technology. Among the exhibits were the world’s largest diamond, an early fax machine and a machine that counted votes.
  • Geese were popular for Christmas dinner with Victorian London families. They were taken to the market with tar on their feet to protect them when they walked.

Victorian London

  • Victorian London was often featured in the novels of Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist. London’s prisons, such as Newgate Prison and Fleet Prison, were described, as was the Victorian Fog (see above).
  • The Great Stink took place in the summer of 1858. Raw sewage pumped into the River Thames dried in the hot weather and created a horrible and lingering smell in the capital city. This prompted the construction of the London sewerage system in the late 19th century.

What next? Discover more facts about London, learn about Charles Dickens, or visit our Victorians resources page.

Big Ben: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Big Ben, one of London’s most famous landmarks.

  • Big Ben is actually the name of the huge bell, but most people use it to refer to the clock and the tower as well. It is the world’s largest chiming clock with four faces.

  • The clock tower, known as the Elizabeth Tower, was built between 1843 and 1858 and is 316 feet high and it is part of the Palace of Westminster. Although the public is not allowed inside, there are great views from the nearby London Eye.
  • Big Ben was probably named for the Commissioner of Works, Benjamin Hall, a man well known for his large size.
  • The clock tower has featured in dozens of movies, including Shanghai Knights and the 1978 version of The 39 Steps. Both films feature an exciting climax with the hero hanging from the clock hands.
  • The minute hand on Big Ben weighs about 220 pounds and is just over 12 feet long. Every year, the hand travels the equivalent of about 118 miles.

Big Ben

  • Pennies are still placed on the mechanism to ensure the clock is as accurate as possible. The clock gains 2/5 of a second in a day when one penny is added.
  • An inscription in Latin in gold letters along the bottom of each of the clock faces reads ‘O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First’.
  • Big Ben’s chimes have been famous for over 150 years. During World War 2, the sound of the chimes being broadcast told the world that Britain had not been defeated.
  • A Big Ben LEGO set has been produced. Part of the LEGO Architecture series, the set (21013) has over 340 pieces.
  • The bell is just over seven feet tall, and weighs about the same as an elephant. When it was cast in 1858, it took two weeks for the bell to cool down.
  • There is still a crack in the bell which occurred in 1859. At the time, it was considered too difficult to remove the bell to repair it.
  • In 2017, restoration work was started, and the Elizabeth Tower was covered in scaffold. It is believed that the job will be completed in 2021.
  • There are 334 steps in the spiral staircase inside the Elizabeth Tower.
  • The base of the tower is just 12m square.

What next? Find out some more facts about London by visiting the Primary Facts London resources page.

Buckingham Palace: Facts About the Home of the British Monarch

  • Buckingham Palace is the British monarch’s administrative headquarters, and has been their official London residence since 1837.
  • Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to live in Buckingham Palace.

  • The building was originally called Buckingham House and it started off as a private house built in 1705 for the Duke of Buckingham.
  • It is close to the centre of London, at the intersection of Constitution Hill, The Mall and Birdcage Walk. The Mall is a long tree lined avenue, traditionally used for Royal parades and funerals processions.
  • The palace has almost 800 rooms, including 240 bedrooms and almost 80 bathrooms. Its rooms and corridors contain one of the world’s greatest art collections.
  • The palace gardens are the largest private gardens in London. They cover 40 acres and contain tennis courts, a boating lake, a helicopter landing pad and over 300 species of flowers.
  • During World War II, the palace was bombed seven times by the Germans. One bomb fell in the courtyard, just yards from the King and Queen.
  • As part of the VE Day celebrations on 8th May 1945, the King, Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth (before she was Elizabeth II) appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. They were warmly applauded.

Buckingham Palace

  • There are more than 350 working clocks and watches in Buckingham Palace. The palace also has its own chapel, post office, movie theatre and swimming pool.
  • The palace contains over 40,000 light bulbs, although its residents are very concerned about the environment. LED lights are widely used and the palace recycles almost all its waste.
  • Over 450 people work at the palace.
  • The palace’s 760 windows are cleaned every six weeks. One of the brightest rooms is the ballroom, which is 100 feet long and almost 50 feet high.
  • Over 50,000 people visit Buckingham Palace each year as guests of the Queen. Some famous visitors over the last 250 years have included Mozart, Gandhi, President Kennedy and Neil Armstrong.
  • When the nearby 28-storey Hilton Hotel was built in 1963, there were concerns from the Queen that hotel guests could see into the rooms of Buckingham Palace.

What next? Discover some more facts about London and its famous landmarks, or find out more about some other Castles and Palaces.

Tower Bridge Facts

Here are some facts about London’s Tower Bridge.

  • Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894.
  • It spans the River Thames, connecting the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets (north side) and Southwark (south side).

  • The bridge combines elements of a suspension bridge design with elements of a bascule bridge design. It has two towers linked by two walkways and suspended sections to either side of the towers, stretching towards the banks of the Thames.
  • Tower Bridge was designed by Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect.
  • The central span of the bridge can be raised to allow ships to pass.
  • More than 400 workers helped to build the bridge and over 70000 tons of concrete were was sunk to the bed of the River Thames to suport the bridge.
  • Tower Bridge is 244 metres long and each tower is 65 metres high.
  • The pedestrian walkways are over 40 metres above the river when it’s at high tide.
  • Although the design of the bridge is much admired today, it was quite heavily criticised when it was built.
  • Over 40000 people use Tower Bridge every day.
  • River traffic takes priority over bridge users, but you must give 24 hours notice if you need the bascules to be raised to allow your ship to pass. They are raised more than 1000 times a year.
  • During the celebrations to mark the 2012 Olympic Games being held in London a massive set of Olympic Rings was displayed on Tower Bridge.
  • Many people think that Tower Bridge is called London Bridge, when in fact they are two different crossings.
  • The Tower Bridge LEGO set, released in in 2010 as set 10214, contains more than 4000 pieces.

What next? Discover more London facts by following the link to our London resources page.

London Bridge Facts

London Bridge has actually been replaced numerous times during the history of the crossing. As a result, the term London Bridge doesn’t just refer to the current bridge over the River Thames joining the City of London with Southwark, it refers to all of the bridges throughout history that have spanned the Thames in this location.

Here are some facts about London Bridge:

  • The Romans built the first version of what was to become London Bridge. This was probably a pontoon style crossing and it linked the Roman roads called Stane Street and Watling Street with the Camulodnum settlement.
  • The bridge was made more permanent by the Romans in about 55 AD and, although the bridge was probably destroyed during the revolt led by Boudicca, it would have been rebuilt and the town of Londinium (London) grew around it.
  • After the Romans left Britain, the Saxons allowed the bridge to fall into disrepair as the River Thames formed the boundary between the lands of Mercia and those of Wessex.
  • William the Conqueror rebuilt the wooden bridge, but it was destroyed in 1091 in the ‘London Tornado’. It was also rebuilt and repaired by both William II and King Stephen.
  • The first stone version of London Bridge was started by Henry II in 1176. Henry II died before the bridge was completed. Work on London Bridge finally stopped in 1209, during the reign of King John. The cost of construction was massive.
  • Old London Bridge, as it is often referred to, was built upon 19 arches. It had a drawbridge at each end to allow tall ships to pass through it.
  • Many different types of building were built on the bridge. In the 14th century, there were over 100 shops on the bridge along with a public latrine.
  • There were over 200 buildings on London Bridge in the Tudor Period. Some were more than six stories high and many overhung the road in the centre of the bridge. The road was only four metres wide and had to deal with traffic going both ways. As a result, London Bridge was often congested.

London Bridge

  • The severed heads of traitors were impaled on spikes on a tower of the southern gatehouse in full-view of everyone who used London Bridge. The heads of William Wallace, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell were all displayed there.
  • In 1722, in an attempt to improve the congestion on the bridge, the Lord Mayor decided that bridge users should keep to the left. Those heading into the City should use the west side of the bridge and those heading towards Sothwark should stick to the east side.
  • In 1758 all of the buildings on the bridge where taken down and a large central arch was constructed to make it easier for ships to pass under the bridge.
  • New London Bridge was designed by John Rennie and was constructed with five stone arches. It was located about 30 metres upstream of Old London Bridge and the older bridge was still used while the new one was being built.
  • New London Bridge was officially opened on 1st August 1831.
  • The new bridge was very heavily used. In 1896 it was estimated that more than 8000 pedestrians and nearly 1000 vehicles crossed the bridge every hour.
  • The bridge started to sink into the bed of the Thames at a rate of about an inch every eight years. The decision was made to remove it and replace it.
  • London Bridge was sold to Robert P McCulloch, a businessman from Missouri (United States). The bridge was reconstructed at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
  • Lord Holford designed the current London Bridge. Building work started in 1967 and was completed in 1972.
  • The bridge is featured in the traditional nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down.

What next? Find out some facts about Tower Bridge (which is often confused with London Bridge), or visit out London resources page.