THE ROBINSON LIBRARY
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a public meeting place in the heart of London since the Middle Ages
Once the site of the King's Royal Hawks, and then the Royal Mews, the area now known as Trafalgar Square became known as Charing Cross after a memorial cross was placed on the square by King Edward I in 1291-94; the "Charing" part of the name is from an Old English word for a nearby bend in the River Thames.
In 1812, the Prince Regent (later King George IV) hired architect John Nash to develop a new street from Charing Cross to Portland Place, and to form an open square in what was then the Great Mews stabling of Whitehall Palace. The death of Nash delayed the project, however, and work did not begin until 1830. It was at this time that the area was renamed Trafalgar Square, in honor of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's victory over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. Work on the National Gallery began in 1832, and ended with its completion in 1838.
After completion of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament, presented a plan to further develop the square by adding an upper terrace next to the Gallery and a lower level square linked to the terrace by a staircase. That work began in 1840 and was finished five years later. Nelson's Column was installed in 1843, and the two massive bronze lions were added to its base in 1868.
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This page was last updated on September 25, 2017.