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Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square is a square in central London that commemmorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), a naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The area had been the site of the King's Mews since the time of Edward I. In the 1820s the Prince Regent engaged the landscape architect John Nash to redevelop the area. Nash cleared the square as part of his Charing Cross Improvement Scheme. The present architecture of the square is due to Sir Charles Barry and was completed in 1845.

The square consists of a large central area surrounded by roadways. Underpasses attached to Charing Cross underground station allow pedestrians to avoid traffic. The square is a popular tourist spot in London, and is particularly famous for its pigeons (rock doves). The desirability of the birds' presence has long been contentious: their droppings look ugly on buildings and damage the stonework, and the flock, estimated at 35,000 is considered to be a health hazard. Since 2000, bird seed to feed them is no longer sold in the square, and efforts are being made to discourage them.

In the middle of the square is Nelson's Column, surrounded by fountains and four huge bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edward Landseer[?]. The column is topped by a statue of Lord Nelson, the admiral who commanded the British Fleet at Trafalgar.

On the north side of the square is the National Gallery. The square adjoins The Mall via Admiralty Arch. To the south is Whitehall, to the east the Strand, to the north Charing Cross Road.

At the corners of the square are four plinths. Three of them hold statues: George IV (1840s), Henry Havelock[?] (1861), and Sir Charles James Napier[?] (1855). Mayor of London Ken Livingstone controversially expressed a desire to see these replaced with people more relevant to the 21st century.

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The Fourth Plinth

The fourth plinth on the northwest corner was intended to hold a statue of William IV, but remained empty due to insufficient funds. Later, agreement could not be reached over which monarch or military hero to place there.

In 1999, the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) conceived the idea of the Fourth Plinth Project, which sought to temporarily occupy the plinth with a succession of works commissioned from three contemporary artists. These were:

Whiteread, already notable for her controversial Turner Prize-winning work "House", made a cast of the plinth in transparent resin, and placed the copy upside-down on top of the original. Following the exhibition project, some wish to see it continue in this role.

The Greater London Authority's Trafalgar Square fourth plinth committee is also considering a permanent statue -- the fourth plinth remains the subject of debate. On March 24, 2003 an appeal was launched by Wendy Woods, the widow of the anti-apartheid journalist Donald Woods[?], hoping to raise 400,000 to pay for a 9 ft high statue of Nelson Mandela by Ian Walters[?]. The relevance of the location is that South Africa House, the South African embassy, scene of many anti-apartheid demonstrations, is also located on Trafalgar Square.

Redevelopment In late 2002 work began to develop the north side of the square. The work involves demolishing part of the wall, and building a wide set of stairs. Plans for a large staircase had long been discussed, even in original plans for the square. The stairs will lead to the National Gallery over a newly pedestrianized area. Previously access between the Square and the Gallery was via two busy crossings at the north east and north west corners of the square. The pedestrianization plan has been carried out in the face of protests from both road-users and pedestrians concerned that the diversion of traffic will lead to greater congestion elsewhere in London.

Access

Nearest London Underground station:

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