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Trafalgar Sq, London » City Info » History

Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London. It has significant historic value and monuments and statues with individual heritage.

Initially most of the area of this square was courtyard of the Great Mews stabling serving Whitehall palace. Formerly the site was known as Charing and after the formation of memorial cross it is now known as Charing Cross. Today’s underground station ‘tube’ is still known by this name-Charing cross tube station. In 1812, architect John Nash wanted to develop new street between this Charing Cross and Portland Place. One open square-- formed by this development which was wised to be used as public cultural open space. Trafalgar Square has undergone many changes throughout 1800s and was officially named as Trafalgar Square in 1830.

Actual work of National Gallery was started in 1832. After this in 1838, some new concepts were suggested by the architect Sir Charles Barry. He wanted to include an upper terrace next to the National Gallery and a lower level square, linked by a staircase which also included the Nelson memorial statue and two fountains. After these changes design of Trafalgar Square was finally implemented between 1840 and 1845. Within the short period of time in 1845 fountains were built and in 1867 the bronze lions were placed at the base of Nelson’s column.

Again in 1876, imperial measures inches, feet, yards, links, chains, perches and poles were set into the north terrace wall. These measures were relocated when central staircase was added. Café on the square tells you detailed information about all these measures.

This site has been seen as national democracy and protest center and even today, rallies and demonstrations on political, religious and general issues are frequently held at weekends.

  • Pigeon attraction

Trafalgar Square used to be famous for pigeons and popular activity was of feeding them by tourists and also by Londoners. 1948 photographs of Elizabeth Taylor standing in bird mob and feeding them with seeds are displayed in the National portrait gallery. As the number of the pigeons increased, droppings of the birds started look ugly on buildings and damaged the stonework. Flock is considered to be a health hazard. Thus sale of the bird seeds is banned and trained falcons are included as a pigeon discouragement measure. Besides this some people continued to feed the birds but then by law Mayor of the London banned this in area of the square. Only few birds are seen today that are used for festivals and also hired by film companies. It is assumed that bird disaster is caused because of the human food chain.

  • Transformation

Trafalgar square has been transformed to give wider and enchanting areas for visitors.

Facilities for disabled people- It provides remarkable access for disabled people. Improved disabled parking in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square and the provision of widened pavements and pedestrian crossings are the important features of the transformation. In addition to this two lifts are installed for giving access between the upper and lower levels of the square.

New pedestrian routes- Pedestrian walking in and around the square has become easy by the new Charles I roundabout the central staircase on the square and improved crossings. Areas between the square and also some central London's key areas such as the South Bank, the Strand, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Whitehall have become more safe and fast because of the new routes.

New traffic system- Installation of the new Charles I roundabout at the junction of Whitehall, Cockspur Street and Northumberland Avenue makes the driving routes more simplified around Trafalgar Square.

  • Trafalgar Square – different use

Having the best art views, square is used for two sketch portions from BBC's comedy series named as ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus’. ‘Olympic Hide and Seek’ sketch also starts here. It is featured in ‘V for Vendetta’ comic version as the location where V’s met the army and defeated them, without a single fired shot. The Square was also the location of the successful 'World's Largest Coconut Orchestra' on 23 April 2007.

In May 2007, for the campaign by London authorities to promote "green spaces" in the city, the square was grassed over with the 2,000 square meters of turf for two days. In July 2007, a parade was held on the square and concert was arranged for the 60th independence of Pakistan from the British. Besides all these activities every year the Sea Cadet Corps holds a parade in honor of Admiral Lord Nelson and the British victory on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October), over the combined fleets of Spain and France at Trafalgar.