Trafalgar Square is a central gathering place you might have been to many times, but do you know everything about it? Read on to discover tidbits about its present, past, and some quirks (surveillance lamp attachment, anyone?).
1. The Royal Mews of Trafalgar Square
In the 1500s, Trafalgar Square wasn’t that at all, but “the Royal Mews”. Though quite an outdated term (and practice) now, hawks were once kept by the upper classes to use during hunting, the British monarchy were no exception. The Mews were where the hawks lived and were cared for. After a fire, during King Henry VIII’s reign it became a stable for his horses.
2. Center for Public Expression
It’s quite the center for public expression. Many protests and other such events have occurred in the Square for centuries, including Bloody Sunday, anti-apartheid and anti-war protests, climate strikes, and even vigils. That’s not the only type of public expression the Square is used for. The Fourth Plinth is used for large temporary statues by contemporary artists. It’s held a statue depicting Christ at once time, a ship in a bottle, and, for a hundred days, rotated members of the public in 1-hour increments who volunteered to be on display (there was a safety net installed for this one!).
3. Lions of Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar has layers upon layers of history. There’s the obvious ones—the name, which is taken from the Spanish Cape Trafalgar, alludes to Nelson’s naval victory there in the Napoleonic wars. It cost him his life, and he’s memorialized in the central Nelson’s column with its distinctive lions. But that’s not the only history Trafalgar holds—during a building project, ice age remains were discovered, from animals like elephants, hippopotami, and cave lions! I guess the lion statues aren’t that far off!
4. Attack of the Pigeons!
The hawks return! Trafalgar Square as well-known (or perhaps notorious?) for it’s so-called feral pigeons. It was practically infested with the birds until the 21st century. Some loved to feed the birds while others found them hazardous, particularly to the many statues. Thus, after several centuries, hawks were reintroduced to Trafalgar Square as part of the effort to discourage the horde of pigeons.
5. Tiny Police Station
Last but not least, some fun. Did you know that Trafalgar Square boast’s Britain’s smallest police station? Made after WWI when police were trying to keep an eye on protesters, many people were not amused, and so, to try to be as unobtrusive and unoffending as possible, the box was redesigned to be built around a fancy rounded light. The officer hidden within could keep an eye on the goings-on, and phone Scotland Yard directly—which would cause the light to flash, communicating with any nearby police officers as well. Not quite the Tardis, but it’s sure quirky!
So, did you learn anything new today? Need to go back and find the police box (I certainly want to)? Tell us any fun facts we missed in the comments, or just your favorite thing we should check out about Trafalgar Square! For more fun, try our new London Street Hunts where you can explore Trafalgar Square yourself and even more interesting places!