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St Martin In The Fields

Literally standing in fields when built in 1726, this church’s design was revolutionary, with a steeple over the frontage of Greek-style pillars. Architect James Gibbs published the plans in a bestselling book in America, heavily influencing the now-iconic style of New England churches there. 
www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org

Suggs Lamp Posts

William Sugg & Co was one of the first suppliers of the new-fangled gas lighting in the early 1800s, working with Frederick Winsor. Its originals here were refurbished by the company in the late 1900s and converted to electricity. Because of the Underground station below, some lamps are bolted to steel plates just under the paving.

Police Post

The fountains in the square were installed to stop unruly political demonstrations. Before then, this police box near Nelson’s Column, connected by phone to Canon Row police station, kept an eye on any crowds. Now a cleaner’s store, the light on top is not from Nelson’s HMS Victory, as some guides might tell you.

They say if you stand in Trafalgar Square long enough, you will meet everyone you know (the same might be said of New York’s Times Square). While you’re waiting, you might like to look out for some of these oddities that many people miss.

Tube: Charing Cross

Trafalgar Square 1 2

Imperial Measures

Sitting on the steps below the National Gallery to eat their sandwiches, many tourists unknowingly rest their feet on the standard Imperial measures of length, set into the granite paving in brass. Here’s where you can check the length of a perch, a pole, a chain or a yard. The UK completed its legal transition to metric units in 1995.

Centre of London

On the busy traffic island (called Charing Cross) below Trafalgar Square is a statue of King Charles I looking towards the place he was beheaded in Whitehall. It’s on a site once occupied by Queen Eleanor's Cross (a replica of which is in front of Charing Cross station). A brass plaque shows this is where all distances to London are measured from.

Nelson’s Spare Nose

This pink nose on Admiralty Arch (look inside the arch taking traffic out of The Mall) is said to be a spare for Nelson in Trafalgar Square, or a tribute to the Duke of Wellington’ large nose. However, it is one of an original 35 put up around central London by artist Rick Buckley in a 1997 protest against CCTV cameras.

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Sailor, Nelson's Column

On the south of Nelson’s Column is a relief showing his death at Trafalgar in 1805. On the left of the dying Nelson is a black crewman holding a musket and searching the enemy rigging for the French sniper who shot him. There were 18 nationalities on board HMS Victory, including nine West Indians and one African.

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Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.

Trafalgar Square Fountains

Look carefully around the dolphins to spot the sharks. Replacing earlier designs by Sir Charles Barry, these fountains commemorate World War I naval heroes, Earls Jellicoe and Beattie. Started before World War II, they were finished in 1948. The fountains were first built to reduce the size of rioting crowds in the square.

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