Trafalgar Sq, London » City Info » History

Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London with a significant historical value, monuments and statues. Initially, most of the area of this square was a courtyard of the Great Mews stabling serving Whitehall palace. Formerly the site was known as Charing, and after the formation of the memorial cross, it is was known as Charing Cross. Today's underground station 'tube' is still known by this name 'Charing Cross tube station'.

Earlier, the Trafalgar Square contained a courtyard, King's Mews. Later, the mews were moved to Buckingham Palace. Architect John Nash redesigned and redeveloped the area. He left open the large area of what it became Trafalgar Square, also at the centre of the area; he kept a block reserved for a new building for the Royal Academy. John Nash wanted to develop a street across the churchyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Trafalgar Square underwent many changes throughout the 1800s and was officially named Trafalgar Square around 1835.

The actual work of the 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 that included the Nelson memorial statue and two fountains. These changes in the design were finally implemented between 1840 and 1845. Within the short period 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 the central staircase was added. Café on the square tells you detailed information about all these measures. On 1st May 1844, Trafalgar Square was opened to the public.

In 1940 the Nazis had a secret plan to transfer Nelson's Column to Berlin, but that never happened.

In 1913 and 1914, the square was the target of two suffragette bombings. The first attack was on 15th May 1913 where the bomb was planted outside the National Gallery. The second attack occurred on 4th April 1914 at St Martin-in-the-Fields church.

Trafalgar Square used to be famous for pigeons, and popular activity was feeding them by tourists and Londoners. Photographs of Elizabeth Taylor standing in bird mob and feeding them with seeds are displayed in the National portrait gallery. As the number of pigeons increased, the birds' droppings started damaging the stonework. Flock is considered to be a health hazard. Thus the sale of the bird seeds was banned. The Mayor of London banned Pigeon feeding in the area of the square. Only a 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.

This site has been seen as a protest centre, and even rallies and demonstrations on political, religious and general issues are frequently held at weekends.

In May 2007, to promote "green spaces" in the city, the square was grassed over 2,000 square meters of turf for two days. Every year a parade is held in honour of Admiral Lord Nelson and the British victory on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21st October) over the combined fleets of Spain and France at Trafalgar.